Sparf & Hansen v. U S, 156 U.S. 51 (1895)

January 21, 1895

No. 613

U.S. Supreme Court October 1894: Melville W. Fuller (chief) Stephen J. Field

John M. Harlan
Horace Gray
David J. Brewer
Henry Billings Brown
George Shiras, Jr.
Howell E. Jackson
Edward D. White


  1. The mere fact that one is confined under charge of a capital offense does not make his confession involuntary.
  2. A general objection made on the joint trial of two persons for murder, by counsel representing both, to the confession of one, made after the homicide, and not in the presence of the other, as incompetent, is sufficient to entitle the latter to have it excluded as to him. Mr. Justice Brewer and Mr. Justice Brown, dissenting.
  3. In criminal cases, the determination of the law is for the court, and not for the jury. Mr. Justice Gray and Mr. Justice Shiras dissenting.
  4. Where the evidence in a criminal trial tends to show the commission of the crime charged. It is proper to instruct that there can be no conviction of an offense included in or less than the one charged. Mr. Justice Gray and Mr. Justice Shiras dissenting.

In Error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of California.

F. J. Kierce, for plaintiffs in error. Asst. Atty. Gen. Conrad, for the United States.

Mr. Justice Harlan delivered the opinion of the court.