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SMITH V. UNITED STATES, 360 U. S. 1 (1959)

U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. United States, 360 U.S. 1 (1959)

Smith v. United States

No. 90

Argued January 21, 1959

Decided June 8, 1959

360 U.S. 1


Since a violation of the Federal Kidnapping Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1201, may be punishable by death if the victim was not liberated unharmed and if the jury so recommends, petitioner's prosecution for a violation of that Act by information, instead of indictment, violated Rule 7(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which provides that "An offense which may be punishable by death shall be prosecuted by indictment," and his conviction was invalid -- even though he waived indictment and it was not alleged or proved that the victim was harmed. Pp. 360 U. S. 2-10.

(a) The statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1201, creates the single offense of transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines, which may be punished by death if sufficient evidence of harm to the victim is introduced at the trial, and such an offense must be prosecuted by indictment. Pp. 360 U. S. 8-9.

(b) The substantial safeguards to the accused provided by the requirement that such an offense be prosecuted by indictment cannot be eradicated on the theory that noncompliance is a mere technical departure from the rules. P. 360 U. S. 9.

(c) Under Rule 7(a), the United States Attorney did not have authority to file an information in this case, and the waivers made by petitioner were not binding, and did not confer power on the convicting court to hear the case. P. 360 U. S. 10.

250 F.2d 842 reversed.

Page 360 U. S. 2

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