255 U.S. 138
Argued Jan. 17, 1921.
Decided Feb. 28, 1921.
Mr. Assistant Attorney General Stewart, for the United States. [255 U.S. 138, 139] Messrs. Otto Christensen and Seymour Stedman, both of Chicago, Ill., for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.
Review of an indictment in two counts for violation of section 135 of the Criminal Code of the United States (Comp. St. 10305) which provides as follows:
Defendant demurred to the indictment on the ground that it did not appear therefrom by any sufficient averment or recital of--
The enumeration of the deficiencies of the indictment may be summarized as follows: It did not appear that William D. Russeli possessed the qualifications to act as a juror; or had been duly and regularly drawn and summoned; or had been examined and accepted as a juror at the array; it cannot be ascertained at what time and place the alleged conversation was had; or at what time Lucy Russell received the impression of the meaning of the conversation; or that she had access to her husband or had opportunity, or could have communicated the conversation to him; or that defendant knew she had such opportunity; or that William D. Russell was a juror in any particular case.
The demurrer was sustained and the indictment dismissed. This writ of error was then allowed.
Necessarily, the first impression of the case is that defendant had some purpose in his approach to Lucy Russell and in the proposition he made to her. What was it, and how far did he execute it? Counsel admits that defendant's purpose was to 'find out what his [L. C. Russell's] attitude was towards the defendants to be tried,' and that this (we are stating the effect of counsel's contention) was only in preparation of a sinister purpose, that the defendants in the case did not wish to undertake, or, to use the language of the indictment, did [255 U.S. 138, 143] not 'want to pay money to any of the petit jourors sitting at the trial of said case unless they knew such petit jurors would favor their acquittal'; and this, counsel says, 'only amounted to a solicitation of a third person who did not accept or act in furtherance of such solicitation' and 'could be interpreted only ... to be preparation [italics counsel's] for an 'endeavor' or 'attempt' to influence the juror, but falls far short of an actual endeavor to do so.'
Counsel enters into quite a discussion, with citation of cases, of the distinction between preparations for an attempt and the attempt itself, and charges that there is a wide difference between them.
We think, however, that neither the contention nor the cases are pertinent to the section under review and upon which the indictment was based. The word of the section is 'endeavor,' and by using it the section got rid of the technicalities which might be urged as besetting the word 'attempt,' and it describes any effort or essay to do or accomplish the evil purpose that the section was enacted to prevent. Criminality does not get rid of its evil quality by the precautions it takes against consequences, personal or pecuniary. It is a somewhat novel excuse to urge that Russell's action was not criminal, because he was cautious enough to consider its cost and be sure of its success. The section, however, is not directed at success in corrupting a juror, but at the 'endeavor' to do so. Experimental approaches to the corruption of a juror are the 'endeavor' of the section. Guilt is incurred by the trial-success may aggravate; it is not a condition of it.
The indictment charges that defendant knew that William D. Russell was a petit juror in the discharge of his duty as such juror, and therefore an endeavor to corruptly influence him was within the section, though he was not yet selected or sworn. State v. Woodson, 43 [255 U.S. 138, 144] La. Ann. 905, 9 South. 903. The court, hence, erred in sustaining the demurrer and dismissing the indictment.
Judgment reversed, and cause remanded for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.