Publication information
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Source: American Law Review
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Legal Status of One Who Assaults the President”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: January-February 1902
Volume number: 36
Issue number: 1
Pagination: 121-22

“Legal Status of One Who Assaults the President.” American Law Review Jan.-Feb. 1902 v36n1: pp. 121-22.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (prosecution: legal precedents).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; David Neagle; David S. Terry.
An asterisk (*) is included in the text below where a footnote indicator was originally inserted (p. 121). The footnote reads as follows: 135 U. S. 1.


Legal Status of One Who Assaults the President

     Some of our legal contemporaries have been troubling themselves over this question, with the result of coming to the common conclusion that such a person is, in the eye of the law, and unfortunately for the state of the law,—guilty of a common crime only, and punishable under the law of the State within which the crime was committed for an infraction of the State law, and not punishable under any existing statute of the United States for the infraction of the Federal law. For instance, when Czolgosz killed the President of the United States, within the State of New York, he was guilty of an offense against the peace and dignity of the State of New York merely, and was not guilty of any offense against the United States. In raking for precedents by which to determine the question involved in this case, some of our contemporaries have referred to Ex parte Neagle.* That case merely decided that, because Neagle killed Terry in defending the life of a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, he could not be tried for any crime by a court of the State of California within which the act was committed. The decision was illogical and untenable. It was a “dog-in-the-manger” decision. Neagle could not be tried in the State court because the act which he did was done in the necessary defense of the [121][122] life of a Federal judge. He could not be tried in a Federal court, for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the act which he did was criminal or innocent, because there was no Federal statute conferring such a jurisdiction upon a Federal court. He therefore could not be tried at all; but it was left to the Supreme Court of the United States, exercising the office of a jury as well as that of a judge, to determine the whole question of guilt or innocence. If Czolgosz had been killed by one of the detectives who were employed to watch over the safety of the President, the analogy of Neagle’s case would have been scarcely any closer; for then, upon the authority of the Neagle case, he would not have been guilty of any offense against the laws of the State of New York, and could not have been tried for any offense in any court of that State; and, there being no Federal statute authorizing his trial by a Federal court, it would have resulted, as in the case of Neagle, that no court would have possessed the power to ascertain whether his act were criminal or innocent.



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