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United States Supreme Court

DREW v. THAW, (1914)

No. 514

Argued: December 11, 1914    Decided: December 21, 1914

[235 U.S. 432, 433]   Messrs.

William Travers Jerome, Franklin Kennedy, and James A. Parsons for appellant.

[235 U.S. 432, 434]   Messrs. P. C. Knox, William A. Stone, Merrill Shurtleff, and George F. Morris for appellee.

[235 U.S. 432, 438]  

Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

This is an appeal from a final order discharging the appellee on habeas corpus. Thaw was held upon a warrant from the governor of New Hampshire for his extradition to New York, in pursuance of a demand of the governor of the latter state. He was alleged to be a fugitive from justice, and a copy of an indictment found by a New York grand jury accompanied the demand. The indictment alleged that Thaw had been committed to the Matteawan State Hospital for the insane under an order of court reciting that he had been acquitted at his trial upon a former indictment on the ground of insanity, and that his discharge was deemed dangerous to public safety. It then alleged that, being thus confined, he conspired with certain persons to procure his escape from the hospital, and did escape, to the obstruction of justice and of the due administration of the laws. By the New York Penal Law an agreement to commit any act for the perversion or obstruction of justice or of the due administration of the laws is a misdemeanor, if an overt act beside the agreement is done to effect the object. Penal Law, 580, 583.

In the wide range taken by the argument for the appellee it was suggested, among other things, that it was not a crime for a man confined in an insane asylum to walk out if he could, and that therefore a conspiracy to do it could not stand in any worse case. But that depends on the statute. It is perfectly possible and even may be rational to enact that a conspiracy to accomplish what an individual is free to do shall be a crime. An individual is free to refuse his custom to a shop, but a conspiracy to abstain from giving custom might and in some jurisdictions probably would be punished. If the acts conspired for tend to obstruct the due administration of the laws, the statute makes the conspiracy criminal whether the acts themselves are so or not. We do not regard it as open [235 U.S. 432, 439]   to debate that the withdrawal, by connivance, of a man from an insane asylum, to which he had been committed as Thaw was, did tend to obstruct the due administration of the law. At least, the New York courts may so decide. Therefore the indictment charges a crime. If there is any remote defect in the earlier proceedings by which Thaw was committed, which we are far from intimating, this is not the time and place for that question to be tried.

If the conspiracy constituted a crime, there is no doubt that Thaw is a fugitive from justice. He was a party to the crime in New York, and afterwards left the state. It long has been established that, for purposes of extradition between the states, it does not matter what motive induced the departure. Roberts v. Reilly, 116 U.S. 80 , 29 L. ed. 544, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 291; Appleyard v. Massachusetts, 203 U.S. 222, 226 , 227 S., 51 L. ed. 161-163, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 122, 7 Ann. Cas. 1073. We perceive no ground whatever for the suggestion that in a case like this there should be a stricter rule.

The most serious argument on behalf of Thaw is that if he was insane when he contrived his escape, he could not be guilty of crime, while if he was not insane, he was entitled to be discharged; and that his confinement and other facts scattered through the record require us to assume that he was insane. But this is not Thaw's trial. In extradition proceedings, even when, as here, a humane opportunity is afforded to test them upon habeas corpus, the purpose of the writ is not to substitute the judgment of another tribunal upon the facts or the law of the matter to be tried. The Constitution says nothing about habeas corpus in this connection, but peremptorily requires that upon proper demand the person charged shall be delivered up to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime. Art. 4, 2. Pettibone v. Nichols, 203 U.S. 192, 205 , 52 S. L. ed. 148, 153, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 111, 7 Ann. Cas. 1047. There is no discretion allowed, no inquiry into motives. Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66, 16 L. ed. 717; Pettibone v. Nichols, 203 U.S. 192, 203 , 51 S. L. ed. 148, 153, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 111, 7 Ann. Cas. 1047. The technical sufficiency of the indictment is not open. Munsey v. Clough, 196 U. S. [235 U.S. 432, 440]   364, 373, 49 L. ed. 515, 517, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 282. And even if it be true that the argument stated offers a nice question, it is a question as to the law of New York which the New York courts must decide. The statute that declares an act done by a lunatic not a crime adds that a person is not excused from criminal liability except upon proof that at the time 'he was laboring under such defect of reason as: 1, not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or 2, not to know that the act was wrong.' Penal Law, 1120. See 34. The inmates of lunatic asylums are largely governed, it has been remarked, by appeal to the same motives that govern other men, and it well might be that a man who was insame and dangerous, nevertheless in many directions understood the nature and quality of his acts as well, and was as open to be affected by the motives of the criminal law as anybody else. How far such considerations shall be taken into account it is for the New York courts to decide, as it is for a New York jury to determine whether, at the moment of the conspiracy, Thaw was insane in such sense as they may be instructed would make the fact a defense. Pierce v. Creecy, 210 U.S. 387, 405 , 52 S. L. ed. 1113, 1122, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 714; Charlton v. Kelly, 229 U.S. 447, 462 , 57 S. L. ed. 1274, 1281, 46 L.R.A. (N.S.) 397, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 945. When, as here, the identity of the person, the fact that he is a fugitive from justice, the demand in due form, the indictment by a grand jury for what it and the governor of New York allege to be a crime in that state, and the reasonable possibility that it may be such, all appear, the constitutionally required surrender is not to be interfered with by the summary process of habeas corpus upon speculations as to what ought to be the result of a trial in the place where the Constitution provides for its taking place. We regard it as too clear for lengthy discussion that Thaw should be delivered up at once.

Final order reversed.

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