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MORRISON V. CALIFORNIA, 291 U. S. 82 (1934)

U.S. Supreme Court

Morrison v. California, 291 U.S. 82 (1934)

Morrison v. California

No. 487

Argued December 12, 13, 1933

Decided January 8, 1934

291 U.S. 82


1. The Alien Land Law of California forbids that an alien who is neither a citizen nor eligible for naturalization shall occupy land for agricultural purposes unless permitted by treaty, makes conspiracy of two or more persons to violate the prohibition a crime, and further provides that, where the state proves occupation or use of such land by any defendant, and the indictment alleges his alienage and ineligibility, the onus of proving his citizenship or eligibility shall devolve upon the defense.

(1) Where two persons, charged with such a conspiracy, were convicted upon proof merely that one of them, alleged to be an alien Japanese, ineligible to citizenship, had gone upon agricultural land and used it under an agreement with the other, whose citizenship was not involved, held that the conviction, as to both, was without due process of law:

(a) In the case of the lessor, the statutory presumption of the lessee's disqualification and of the lessor's knowledge of it, based only on the lease and possession, is purely arbitrary. Pp. 291 U. S. 90-92.

(b) In the case of the lessee, the shifting of the burden of proof is likewise unjustifiable, first because a lease of agricultural land conveys no hint of criminality, and secondly because there is in general no practical necessity for relieving the prosecution of the necessity of proving Japanese race -- the appearance of the defendant and expert testimony will suffice, and because, in the exceptional case, where the appearance of Japanese blood is obscured by admixtures of white or African blood, the promotion of convenience from the point of view of the prosecution will be outweighed by the probability of injustice to the accused: one whose racial origins are so blended as not to be discoverable at sight will often be unaware of them. Pp. 291 U. S. 93-96.

(2) Morrison v. California, 288 U.S. 591, distinguished -- a case involving a different section of the statute and in which the burden

Page 291 U. S. 83

of proving citizenship by birth lay upon the alien after the state had proved him to be of a race ineligible for naturalization. P. 291 U. S. 87.

2. The burden of proof may be shifted in criminal cases where the state has proved enough to make it just for the defendant to be required to repel what has been proved with excuse or explanation, or where, upon a balancing of convenience or of the opportunities for knowledge, the shifting of the burden will be found to be an aid to the accuser without subjecting the accused to hardship or oppression. P. 291 U. S. 88.

3. Where a charge of conspiracy is limited to two persons, the guilty knowledge must have been shared by both to warrant conviction of either. P. 291 U. S. 93.

218 Cal. 287, 22 P. 2d 718, reversed.

Appeal from a judgment sustaining a conviction of conspiracy. The case went to the court below from the California District Court of Appeal. 13 P. 2d 803.

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