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UNITED STATES V. UNZEUTA, 281 U. S. 138 (1930)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Unzeuta, 281 U.S. 138 (1930)

United States v. Unzeuta

No. 509

Argued March 12, 1930

Decided April 14, 1930

281 U.S. 138


1. When the United States acquires title to lands by purchase with the consent of the legislature of the state within which they are situated "for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings" (Const., Art. I, § 8), the federal jurisdiction is exclusive of all state authority. P. 142. 281 U.S. 139

2. But when an area of public lands of the United States is set aside as a military reservation and jurisdiction over it is ceded to the United States by the state, the state may attach to the cession conditions that are not inconsistent with the carrying out of the purpose of the reservation, and the terms of the cession, to the extent that they my be lawfully prescribed, determine the extent of the federal jurisdiction. P. 281 U. S. 142.

3. Public land of the United States in the State of Nebraska was reserved by Executive Order as a military reservation. Congress granted to a railroad company a right of way across it, to be located subject to the approval of the Secretary of War and not to interfere with any buildings or improvements. The state thereafter ceded to the United States its jurisdiction over the reservation, with a proviso that the jurisdiction ceded should continue no longer than the United States should own and occupy the reservation and reserving to the state jurisdiction to execute civil and criminal process within the reservation and the right to open or repair public roads over it.

Held, construing the Act of cession,

(1) That the condition as to execution of process had relation to crimes committed outside of the reservation. P. 281 U. S. 143.

(2) The proviso looked to the future, and did not apply to the railroad right of way existing when the cession was made. Id.

(3) The fact that the right of way was actually used by the railroad and under a permanent grant was not incompatible with the maintenance of the federal jurisdiction over it, since that jurisdiction might be necessary in order to secure the benefits intended to be derived from the reservation. P. 281 U. S. 144.

(4) A murder committed on the right of way, within the reservation, was punishable by the United States. Pp. 281 U. S. 140, 281 U. S. 146.

35 F.2d 750 reversed.

Appeal from a judgment of the district court sustaining a plea to the jurisdiction in a prosecution for murder.

Page 281 U. S. 140

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