Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. [289 U.S. 137, 138] The Attorney General and Mr.Thomas D. Thacher, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C. (Mr. Robert P. Reeder, of Washington, D.C., on the brief), for the United States.
[289 U.S. 137, 141] Mr. John V. Lovitt, of Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee.
Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
By indictment found in the District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania it was charged that appellee, a citizen of the United States, murdered another citizen of the United States upon the Steamship Padnsay, an American vessel, [289 U.S. 137, 145] while at anchor in the Port of Matadi, in the Belgian Congo, a place subject to the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Belgium, and that appellee, after the commission of the crime, was first brought into the Port of Philadelphia, a place within the territorial jurisdiction of the District Court. By stipulation it was conceded, as though stated in a bill of particulars, that the Padnsay, at the time of the offense charged, was unloading, being attached to the shore by cables, at a point 250 miles inland from the mouth of the Congo river.
The District Court, following its earlier decision in United States ex rel. Maro v. Mathues, 21 F(2d) 533, affirmed (C.C.A.) 27 F.(2d) 518, sustained a demurrer to the indictment and discharged the prisoner on the ground that the court was without jurisdiction to try the offense charged. 3 F.Supp. 134. The case comes here by direct appeal under the Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1264, 18 U.S.C. 682 (18 USCA 682) and section 238 of the Judicial Code, as amended by Act of February 13, 1925, 28 U.S.C. 345 (28 USCA 345), the court below certifying that its decision was founded upon its construction of section 272 of the Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. 451 (18 USCA 451).
Sections 273 and 275 of the Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. 452, 454 (18 USCA 452, 454), define murder and fix its punishment. Section 272,1 upon the construction of which the court below rested its decision, makes punishable offenses defined by other sections of the Criminal Code, among other cases, [289 U.S. 137, 146] 'when committed within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular State on board any vessel belonging in whole or in part to the United States' or any of its nationals. And by section 41 of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. 102 (28 USCA 102), venue to try offenses 'committed upon the high seas, or elsewhere out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district,' is 'in the district where the offender is found, or into which he is first brought.' As the offense charged here was committed on board a vessel lying outside the territorial jurisdiction of a state, see Wynne v. United States, 217 U.S. 234 , 30 S.Ct. 447; United States v. Rodgers, 150 U.S. 249, 265 , 14 S.Ct. 109, and within that of a foreign sovereignty, the court below was without jurisdiction to try and punish the offense unless it was within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States.
Two questions are presented on this appeal, first, whether the extension of the judicial power of the federal government 'to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction,' by article 3, 2, of the Constitution confers on Congress power to define and punish offenses perpetrated by a citizen of the United States on board one of its merchant vessels lying in vavigable waters within the territorial limits of another sovereignty; and, second, whethr Congress has exercised that power by the enactment of section 272 of the Criminal Code under which the indictment was found.
The court below thought, as appellee argues, that as section 8 of article 1 of the Constitution specifically granted to Congress the power 'to define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations,' and 'to make rules concerning captures on land and water,' that provision must be regarded as a limitation on the general provision of section 2 of article 3, that the judicial power shall extend 'to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction'; that as the specific [289 U.S. 137, 147] grant of power to punish offenses outside the territorial limits of the United States was thus restricted to offenses occurring on the high seas, the more general grant could not be resorted to as extending either the legislative or judicial power over offenses committed on vessels outside the territorial limits of the United States and not on the high seas.
Before the adoption of the Constitution, jurisdiction in admiralty and maritime cases was distributed between the Confederation and the individual states. Article 9 of the Articles of Confederation provided that 'the United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power ... of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, ... appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures. ...' So much of the general admiralty and maritime jurisdiction as was not included in this grant of power remained with the states. The powers thus granted were in substance the same as those later conferred on the national government by article 1, 8, of the Federal Constitution. This section was adopted to carry out a resolution of the Convention 'that the national legislature ought to possess the legislative rights vested in Congress by the Confederation.' Its primary purpose and effect was to transfer to the newly organized government the powers in a admiralty matters previously vested in the Confederation. 2 [289 U.S. 137, 148] A proposal independently made and considered in the Convention that 'the admiralty jurisdiction ought to be given wholly to the national government,' resulted in the adoption of article 3, 2, by which the judicial power of the United States was extended to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.