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United States v. Johnson (323 U.S. 273)/Concurrence Murphy

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United States Supreme Court

323 U.S. 273

UNITED STATES  v.  JOHNSON et al.

 Argued: Nov. 8, 1944. --- Decided: Dec 18, 1944


Mr. Justice MURPHY, concurring.

I join in the opinion of the Court and believe that the judgment should be affirmed.

Congress has the constitutional power to fix venue at any place where a crime occurs. Our problem here is to determine, in the absence of a specific venue provision, where the crime outlawed by the Federal Denture Act occurred for purposes of venue.

The Act prohibits the use of the mails for the purpose of sending or bringing into any state certain prohibited articles. It is undisputed that when a defendant places a prohibited article in the mails in Illinois for the purpose of sending it into Delaware he has completed a statutory offense. Hence he is triable in Illinois. But to hold that the statutory crime also encompasses the receipt of the prohibited article in Delaware, justifying a trial at that point, requires an implication that I am unwilling to make in the absence of more explicit Congressional language.

Very often the difference between liberty and imprisonment in cases where the direct evidence offered by the government and the defendant is evenly balanced depends upon the presence of character witnesses. The defendant is more likely to obtain their presence in the district of his residence, which in this instance is usually the place where the prohibited article is mailed. The inconvenience, expense and loss of time involved in transplanting these witnesses to testify in trials far removed from their homes are often too great to warrant their use. Moreover, they are likely to lose much of their effectiveness before a distant jury that knows nothing of their reputations. Such factors make it difficult for me to conclude, where Congress has not said so specifically, that we should construe the Federal Denture Act as covering more than the first sufficient and punishable use of the mails insofar as the sender of a prohibited article is concerned. The principle of narrow construction of criminal statutes does not warrant interpreting the 'use' of the mails to cover all possible uses in light of the foregoing considerations.

NotesEdit

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).