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United States Supreme Court

112 U.S. 178


It is not claimed that the law which imposes the tax and fixes the penalty for doing business without its payment is unconstitutional. Neither is it pretended that the hustings court has not plenary jurisdiction for the trial of persons charged with a violation of the law. The petitioner is, therefore, in the custody of a state court of competent jurisdiction, and held for trial upon an information for violating a criminal statute of the state. He seeks to be discharged by habeas corpus, not because, if guilty of the charge which has been made against him the court is without jurisdiction to hold him for trial and to convict and sentence him, but because, as he alleges, he has a valid defense to the charge, which grows out of a provision in the constitution of the United States; and, for this reason, he insists he is detained in violation of the constitution. It is elementary learning that if a prisoner is in the custody of a state court of competent jurisdiction, not illegally asserted, he cannot be taken from that jurisdiction and discharged on habeas corpus issued by a court of the United States, simply because he is not guilty of the offense for which he is held. All questions which may arise in the orderly course of the proceeding against him are to be determined by the court to whose jurisdiction he has been subjected, and no other court is authorized to interfere to prevent it. Here the right of the prisoner to a discharge depends alone on the sufficiency of his defense to the information under which he is held. Whether his defense is sufficient or not is for the court which tries him to determine. If, in this determination, errors are committed, they can only be corrected in and appropriate form of proceeding for that purpose. The office of a writ of habeas corpus is neither to correct such errors nor to take the prisoner away from the curt which holds him for trial, for fear, if he remains, they may be committed. Authorities to this effect in our own reports are numerous. Ex parte Watkins, 3 Pet. 202; Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 166; Ex parte Parks, 93 U.S. 23; Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 374; Ex parte Virginia, Id. 343; Ex parte Rowland, 104 U.S. 612; Ex parte Curtis, 106 U.S. 375; S.C.. 1 SUP. CT. REP. 381; Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 653; S.C.. 4 SUP. CT. REP. 152. Of course, what is here said has no application to writs of habeas corpus cum causa, issued by the courts of the United States in aid of their jurisdiction upon the removal of suits or prosecutions from state courts for trial under the authority of an act of congress. Denied.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).