MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.
This was an indictment in the District Court of the United States for the District of Colorado under section 5511 of the Revised Statutes, providing: "If, at any election for Representative
The indictment charged that on the 4th day of November, 1890, at the county of Arapahoe, State of Colorado, the accused, James Connors, "did unlawfully interfere with the judges of election of the Eighteenth voting precinct in said county of Arapahoe, in the discharge of their duties, which said judges of election were then and there officers of the election for Representative in the Fifty-second Congress of the United States, in accordance with the laws of the State
Motions to quash the indictment, to arrest the judgment, and for a new trial were made and overruled, and there was a verdict of guilty, upon which the court sentenced the accused to imprisonment in the House of Correction at Detroit, in the State of Michigan, for the period of fifteen months, to be fed and clothed there as the law directs.
1. The first assignment of error questions the sufficiency of the indictment, in that it charges the accused, as he insists, with three distinct offences in one count, namely: with having unlawfully and with force and arms seized, carried away, and secreted the ballot box containing the ballots cast at the election named; with having aided and assisted in the forcible and unlawful seizure, carrying away, and secreting of such ballot box; and with having counselled, advised, and procured the seizure, carrying away, and secreting of the ballots at said election.
This objection to the indictment is not well taken. The offence charged was that of unlawfully interfering with the officers of the election in the discharge of their duties. Their duty was to ascertain and disclose the result of the election. That duty could not be performed without inspection of the ballots. Seizing, carrying away, and secreting the ballot box containing the ballots cast for Representative in Congress
2. Another assignment of error relates to the refusal of the court to permit certain questions to be propounded to jurors on their voir dire.
It appears from the bill of exceptions that upon the examination
At a subsequent stage of the proceedings, the counsel for the accused prepared and submitted in writing a number of questions they desired to propound to jurors. Those questions were as follows:
"Q. Did you take an active part in politics in the general election of A.D. 1890; and if so, on which side?
"Q. Did you take an active part in politics in the general election of A.D. 1890; and if so, with which of the parties did you affiliate, and where?
"Q. Have you been heretofore or are you now strongly partisan in your political belief?
"Q. Would your political affiliations or party predilections tend to bias your judgment in this case either for or against this defendant?
"Q. Were you ever at any time a member of what was and is known in the city of Denver, county of Arapahoe, and State of Colorado, as the committee of one hundred?
"Q. Were you ever at any time a judge or clerk of an election; and, if so, when and where, and by what party were you named and appointed?
"Q. Are you a member of any political club organized for the advancement of the interests of any political party; and, if so, what party?"
These questions and each of them were excluded by the court and an exception duly taken.
The bill of exceptions also states that the questions last above given were submitted to the court while the examination of jurors was in progress; that the presiding judge did not observe the character of the fourth question; and that "if attention had been directed to that question it would have
It is quite true, as suggested by the accused, that he was entitled to be tried by an impartial jury, that is, by jurors who had no bias or prejudice that would prevent them from returning a verdict according to the law and evidence. It is equally true that a suitable inquiry is permissible in order to ascertain whether the juror has any bias, opinion, or prejudice that would affect or control the fair determination by him of the issues to be tried. That inquiry is conducted under the supervision of the court, and a great deal must, of necessity, be left to its sound discretion. This is the rule in civil cases, and the same rule must be applied in criminal cases.
In Mima Queen & child v. Hepburn, 7 Cranch, 290, 297, in which the plaintiff's asserted their freedom as against the defendant who claimed them as his slaves, a juror was examined on his voir dire as to his fitness to serve on the jury. Being questioned, he avowed his detestation of slavery to be such that, in a doubtful case, he would find a verdict for the plaintiffs, and had so expressed himself with regard to that very case. He also stated that if the testimony were equal he should certainly find a verdict for the plaintiff. The court rejected him as a juror, and an exception was taken. Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for this court said: "It is certainly much to be desired that jurors should enter upon their duties with minds entirely free from every prejudice. Perhaps on general and public questions it is scarcely possible to avoid receiving some prepossessions, and where a private right depends on such a question the difficulty of obtaining jurors whose minds are entirely uninfluenced by opinions previously formed is undoubtedly considerable. Yet they ought to be superior to every exception, they ought to stand perfectly indifferent between the parties, and although the bias which was acknowledged in this case might not perhaps have been so strong as to render it positively improper to allow the juror to be sworn on the jury, yet it was desirable to submit the
Does the record show that the court below did not exercise a sound discretion in rejecting the above questions propounded or proposed to be propounded to jurors? We think not. It is true that the court below informs us by the bill of exceptions that if its attention had been called to the matter at the time it would have allowed the inquiry whether the political affiliations or party predilections of the juror would in anywise bias his judgment. But the court certainly did not believe that the rejection of that question in itself prejudiced the substantial rights of the accused. If it had so believed, a new trial, we may assume, would have been granted. We cannot, therefore, permit the recital in the bill of exceptions on this subject to control our determination of the question presented by the record.
We are of opinion that the court correctly rejected the question put to the juror Stewart as to his political affiliations. The law assumes that every citizen is equally interested in the enforcement of the statute enacted to guard the integrity of national elections, and that his political opinions or affiliations will not stand in the way of an honest discharge of his duty as a juror in cases arising under that statute. So, also, active participation in politics cannot be said, as matter of law, to imply either unwillingness to enforce the statutes designed to insure honest elections and due returns of the votes cast, or inability to do justice to those charged with violating the provisions of those statutes. Strong political convictions are by no means inconsistent with a desire to protect the freedom and purity of elections.
Particular stress is laid upon the refusal of the court to allow the question to jurors, "Would your political affiliations or party predilections tend to bias your judgment in this case either for or against this defendant?" In the absence of any statement tending to show that there was some special reason or ground for putting that question to particular jurors called into the jury box for examination, it cannot be said that the
In respect to the question referring to the Committee of One Hundred in the city of Denver, it is only necessary to say that there is nothing in the record showing any such connection between that committee and this prosecution as would disqualify a member of that organization from sitting as a juror. If that committee was in fact behind the prosecution of the defendant, actively supplying the government with information to convict him of the crime charged, the court
Other questions have been discussed by counsel, but they are not of sufficient gravity to require notice at our hands.
We perceive no reason to doubt that the accused was fairly tried. No error of law having been committed by the court below, the judgment is