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VIERECK V. UNITED STATES, 318 U. S. 236 (1943)

U.S. Supreme Court

Viereck v. United States, 318 U.S. 236 (1943)

Viereck v. United States

No. 458

Argued February 1, 2, 1943

Decided March 1, 1943

318 U.S. 236


1. Where the charge of the trial court in a criminal prosecution for violation of the Act of June 8, 1938, as amended by the Act of August 7, 1939, authorized the jury to return a verdict of guilty if it found that the defendant had willfully failed to disclose activities which were wholly on his own behalf, the conviction can be sustained only if the failure to disclose such activities was a criminal offense, even though the evidence might warrant a finding that all of the defendant's activities were in fact in behalf of foreign principals. P. 318 U. S. 240.

2. The Act of June 8, 1938, as amended by the Act of August 7, 1939, held not to require, or authorize the Secretary of State to require, registrants to make any statement of their activities other than those in which they have engaged "as agent" of a foreign principal. P. 318 U. S. 243.

3. The unambiguous words of a criminal statute are not to be altered by judicial construction so as to punish one not otherwise within its reach, however deserving of punishment his conduct may seem. P. 318 U. S. 243.

4. The application of the amendatory Act of April 29, 1942, to impose upon the defendant in this case a duty which the words of the prior Act plainly exclude cannot be justified by denominating the amendatory legislation as clarifying or declaratory. P. 318 U. S. 247.

5. The defendant's right to a fair trial in this case was prejudiced by the conduct of the prosecutor, who, in his closing remarks to the jury, indulged in an appeal wholly irrelevant to any facts or issues in the case, and the only purpose and effect of which could have been to arouse passion and prejudice. Such remarks should have been stopped by the trial judge sua sponte. P. 318 U. S. 247.

6. It is as much the duty of the prosecutor to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one. P. 318 U. S. 248.

130 F.2d 945 reversed.

Page 318 U. S. 237

Certiorari, 317 U.S. 618, to review the affirmance of a conviction for violation of a federal Act requiring the registration of certain agents of foreign principals.

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