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O'NEIL V. VERMONT, 144 U. S. 323 (1892)

U.S. Supreme Court

O'Neil v. Vermont, 144 U.S. 323 (1892)

O'Neil v. Vermont

No. 6

Argued January 20, 1892

Decided April 4, 1892

144 U.S. 323


A complaint, in Vermont, before a justice of the peace, for selling intoxicating liquor without authority, was in the form prescribed by the state statute, which also provided that, under such form of complaint, every distinct act of selling might be proved, and that the court should impose a fine for each offense. After a conviction and sentence before the justice of the peace, the defendant appealed to the County Court, where the case was tried before a jury. The defendant did not take the point, in either court, that there was any defect or want of fullness in the complaint. The jury found the defendant guilty of 307 offenses, as of a second conviction for a like offense. He was fined $6,140, being $20 for each offense, and the costs of prosecution, $497.96, and ordered to be committed until the sentence should be complied with, and it was adjudged that, if the fine and costs, and 76 cents as costs of

Page 144 U. S. 324

commitment, aggregating $6.638.72, should not be paid before a day named, he should be confined at hard labor, in the house of correction, for 19,914 days, being, under a statute of the State, three days for each dollar of the $6,638. The facts of the case were contained in a written admission, and the defendant excepted because the court refused to hold that the facts did not constitute an offense. The case was heard by the Supreme Court of the State (58 Vermont 140), which held that there was no error. On a writ of error from this Court;

(1) The term of imprisonment was authorized by the statute of Vermont;

(2) It was not assigned in this Court as error, in the assignment of errors or in the brief, that the defendant was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Constitution of the United States;

(3) So far as that is a question arising under the Constitution of Vermont, is not within the province of this Court;

(4) As a Federal question, the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not apply to the States;

(5) No point on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution of the United States was taken in the County Court, in regard to the present case, or considered by the Supreme Court of Vermont or called to its attention;

(6) The only question considered by the Supreme Court in regard to the present case was whether the defendant sold the liquor in Vermont or in New York, and it held that the completed sale was in Vermont; and that did not involve any Federal question;

(7) As the defendant did not take the point in the trial court that there was any defect or want of fullness in the complaint, he waived it, and it did not involve any Federal question;

(8) The Supreme Court of Vermont decided the case on a ground broad enough to maintain its judgment without considering any Federal question;

(9) The writ of error must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction in this Court, because the record does not present a Federal question.

This case came on for argument in regular course on the 4th day of December in October Term, 1889. The Court ordered the case to be passed to be heard before a full bench. When reached at October Term, 1890, it was again passed in consequence of the illness of counsel. The case as now made is stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 144 U. S. 325

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