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IN RE COY, 127 U. S. 731 (1888)

U.S. Supreme Court

In re Coy, 127 U.S. 731 (1888)

In re Coy

No. 1395

Argued April 16-17, 1888

Decided May 14, 1888

127 U.S. 731


The acts of Congress and the statutes of Indiana make it a criminal offense for an inspector of elections, or other election officer at which an election for a member of Congress is held, to whom is committed the safe keeping and delivery to the board of canvassers of the poll books, the tally sheets, and the certificates of the votes, to fail or omit to perform this duty of safekeeping and delivery.

In an indictment in a court of the United States for a conspiracy to induce these officers to omit such duty in order that the documents mentioned might come to the hands of improper persons who tampered with and falsified the returns, it is not necessary to allege or prove that it was the intention of these conspirators to affect the election of the member of Congress who was voted for at that place, the returns of which were in the same poll books, tally sheets, and certificates with those for state officers.

The authority of Congress to protect the poll books which contain the vote for a member of Congress from the danger which might arise from the exposure of these papers to the chance of falsification or other tampering is beyond question, and this danger is not removed because the purpose of the conspirators was to falsify the returns as to state officers found in the same poll books and certificates, and not those of the member of Congress.

The writ of habeas corpus, in case of a person held a prisoner by sentence of court, can only release the prisoner when it is shown that the court had no jurisdiction to try and punish him for the offense. The inquiry in such case is not whether there is in the indictment such specific allegation of the details of the charge as would make it good on demurrer, but whether the indictment describes a class of offenses of which the court has jurisdiction and alleges the defendant to be guilty. If the record of the case in which judgment of imprisonment is pronounced contains no charge of such offense, he should be discharged.

The prisoners in the present case are specifically charged with an offense against the election laws of Indiana and of the United States by a conspiracy to violate those laws, and this Court holds that the District Court of the United States for Indiana had jurisdiction to try and punish them for that offense, and the judgment of the circuit court refusing the writ of habeas corpus is accordingly affirmed.

This was a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The District

Attorney of the United States for the District of Indiana demurred to the petition and the demurrer was sustained and the writ refused. The petitioners appealed. The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 127 U. S. 732

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