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Source: Brief
Source type: journal
Document type: article
Document title: “Responsibility for Crime in Cases Where the Criminal Act Is Committed in One Jurisdiction and Takes Effect in Another”
Author(s): St. John, Merle I.
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 3
Issue number: 4
Pagination: 422-34 (excerpt below includes only pages 433-34)

St. John, Merle I. “Responsibility for Crime in Cases Where the Criminal Act Is Committed in One Jurisdiction and Takes Effect in Another.” Brief Oct. 1901 v3n4: pp. 422-34.
presidential assassination (legal jurisdiction); presidential assassination (laws against); presidential assassination (legal penalties).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Peter Vivian Daniel; William McKinley.
From page 422: By Merle I. St. John, of the New York Bar.


Responsibility for Crime in Cases Where the Criminal Act Is Committed in
One Jurisdiction and Takes Effect in Another

     After the assault on the late President McKinley, and during the time it was thought he would recover, the question as to whether there was any possible way of punishing Czolgosz other than by the comparatively mild sentence of ten years’ imprisonment under the New York Penal Code, was discussed. Provided it could be proved that two or more were involved in the plot to murder the President, some thought that sections 5508 and 5509 of the Federal statutes might apply. These sections are in a chapter entitled “Crimes Against the [433][434] Elective Franchise and Civil Rights of Citizens.” Section 5508 provides that two or more persons who conspire to injure any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the constitution or laws of the United States, shall be fined not more than $5,000 and imprisoned for not more than ten years. Section 5509 provides that if in the violation of the previous provisions any crime is committed the offenders shall be punished in addition to the same extent as they are punishable in the state where the act is committed.
     Granting that the presidency is a right or privilege secured by the constitution, and that the attack was against Mr. McKinley as President and not against him as a man, it seems that Czolgosz and his supposed conspirators would have brought themselves within the provisions of this statute. There would have been also the specific and distinct crime of an assault, an offense against the peace of the State of New York. The dignity of two jurisdictions would have been offended and both could have punished. New York could not have tried him after a Federal conviction (Penal Code, supra), but we know nothing to prevent a New York conviction followed by a Federal conviction. This would have made a total punishment of thirty years’ imprisonment, with a $5,000 fine. For ordinary assaults this seems harsh, and would not be applied. We quote the words of Justice Daniel¹ in Fox. v. The State of Ohio: “It is almost certain, that in the benignant spirit in which the institutions both of the State and Federal systems are administered, an offender who should have suffered the penalties denounced by the one would not be subjected a second time to punishment by the other for acts essentially the same, unless indeed, this might occur in instances of peculiar enormity or where the public safety demanded extraordinary vigor.”
     This, of course, is now an academic question, as the assassin has received the utmost penalties of the law.
     ¹46 U. S. 410.



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