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Gooch v. United States

U.S.
Feb 3, 1936
297 U.S. 124 (1936)

Summary

holding that the kidnapping statute does not require a pecuniary motive

Summary of this case from United States v. Vizcarra

Opinion

CERTIFICATE FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT.

No. 559.

Argued January 13, 14, 1936. Decided February 3, 1936.

1. An officer who is unlawfully seized and carried away to prevent the arrest of his captor is "held for . . . reward or otherwise" within the meaning of the Federal Kidnaping Act as amended; and transportation in interstate commerce of the officer while thus restrained constitutes a violation of the Act. Act of June 22, 1932, as amended by Act of May 18, 1934. P. 125. 2. The amending Act added to the words "held for ransom or reward" the words "or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof." The contention that the words "ransom" and "reward" mean only pecuniary benefits, and that ejusdem generis similarly restricts the words "or otherwise" notwithstanding the excepting clause, cannot be sustained. P. 126. 3. The rule of ejusdem generis is an aid in ascertaining the correct meaning of words when there is uncertainty. P. 128. 4. Penal statutes are construed in that sense which best harmonizes with their context and purpose. P. 128.

CERTIFICATE presenting two questions involving the construction of the Federal Kidnaping Act.

Mr. W.F. Rampendahl, with whom Mr. E.M. Frye was on the brief, for Gooch.

Mr. Gordon Dean, with whom Solicitor General Reed, Assistant Attorney General Keenan, and Mr. William W. Barron were on the brief, for the United States.


By permission of § 346, 28 U.S.C. the Circuit Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, has certified two questions and asked instruction.

"1. Is holding an officer to avoid arrest within the meaning of the phrase, `held for ransom or reward or otherwise', in the act of June 22, 1932, as amended May 18, 1934 ( 48 Stat. 781), 18 U.S. C.A. 408a?

"2. Is it an offense under Section 408a, supra, to kidnap and transport a person in interstate commerce for the purpose of preventing the arrest of the kidnaper?"

The statement revealing the facts and circumstances out of which the questions arise follows —

"Gooch was convicted and sentenced to be hanged under an indictment charging that he, with one Nix, kidnaped two officers at Paris, Texas, `for the purpose of preventing his (Gooch's) arrest by the said peace officers in the State of Texas,' and transported them in interstate commerce from Paris, Texas, to Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, and at the time of the kidnaping did bodily harm and injury to one of the officers from which bodily harm the officer was suffering at the time of his liberation by Gooch and Nix in Oklahoma.

"The proof supports the charge. It established these facts: Gooch and Nix, while heavily armed, were accosted by the officers at Paris, Texas. To avoid arrest, Gooch and Nix resisted and disarmed the officers, unlawfully seized and kidnaped them and transported them by automobile from Texas to Oklahoma, and liberated them in the latter State. During the time Gooch and Nix were kidnaping the officers they inflicted serious bodily injury upon one of the officers, from which injury he was suffering at the time of such liberation in the State of Oklahoma."

The Act of June 22, 1932, c. 271, 47 Stat. 326, provided —

"That whoever shall knowingly transport or cause to be transported, or aid or abet in transporting, in interstate or foreign commerce, any person who shall have been unlawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnaped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever and held for ransom or reward shall, upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for such term of years as the court, in its discretion, shall determine."

The amending Act of May 18, 1934, c. 301, 48 Stat. 781, 18 U.S.C. § 408a, declares —

"Whoever shall knowingly transport or cause to be transported, or aid or abet in transporting, in interstate or foreign commerce, any person who shall have been unlawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnaped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever and held for ransom or reward or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof, shall, upon conviction, be punished (1) by death if the verdict of the jury shall so recommend, provided that the sentence of death shall not be imposed by the court if, prior to its imposition, the kidnaped person has been liberated unharmed, or (2) if the death penalty shall not apply nor be imposed the convicted person shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for such term of years as the court in its discretion shall determine: . . ."

Counsel for Gooch submit that the words "ransom or reward" import "some pecuniary consideration or payment of something of value"; that as the statute is criminal the familiar rule of ejusdem generis must be strictly applied; and finally, it cannot properly be said that a purpose to prevent arrest and one to obtain money or something of pecuniary value are similar in nature.

The original Act (1932) required that the transported person should be held "for ransom or reward." It did not undertake to define the words and nothing indicates an intent to limit their meaning to benefits of pecuniary value. Generally, reward implies something given in return for good or evil done or received.

Informed by experience during two years, and for reasons satisfactory to itself, Congress undertook by the 1934 Act to enlarge the earlier one and to clarify its purpose by inserting "or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof," immediately after "held for ransom or reward." The history of the enactment emphasized this view.

The Senate Judiciary Committee made a report, copied in the margin, recommending passage of the amending bill and pointing out the broad purpose intended to be accomplished.

"The Committee on the Judiciary, having had under consideration the bill (S. 2252) to amend the act forbidding the transportation of kidnaped persons in interstate commerce, reports the same favorably to the Senate and recommends that the bill do pass.
"The purpose and need of this legislation are set out in the following memorandum from the Department of Justice:
"S. 2252; H.R. 6918: This is a bill to amend the act forbidding the transportation of kidnaped persons in interstate commerce — act of June 22, 1932 (U.S.C. ch. 271, title 18, sec. 408a), commonly known as the `Lindbergh Act.' This amendment adds thereto the word `otherwise' so that the act as amended reads: `Whoever shall knowingly transport . . . any person who shall have been unlawfully seized . . . and held for ransom or reward or otherwise shall, upon conviction, be punished . . .' The object of the addition of the word `otherwise' is to extend the jurisdiction of this act to persons who have been kidnaped and held, not only for reward, but for any other reason.
"In addition, this bill adds a proviso to the Lindbergh Act to the effect that in the absence of the return of the person kidnaped and in the absence of the apprehension of the kidnaper during a period of 3 days, the presumption arises that such person has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce, but such presumption is not conclusive.
"I believe that this is a sound amendment which will clear up border-line cases, justifying Federal investigation in most of such cases and assuring the validity of Federal prosecution in numerous instances in which such prosecution would be questionable under the present form of this act." S. Rep. 534, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., March 22, 1934.

The House Judiciary Committee made a like recommendation and said —

"This bill, as amended, proposes three changes in the act known as the `Federal Kidnaping Act.' First, it is proposed to add the words `or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof.' This will extend Federal jurisdiction under the act to persons who have been kidnaped and held, not only for reward, but for any other reason, except that a kidnaping by a parent of his child is specifically exempted. . . ." H.Rep. 1457, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., May 3, 1934.

Evidently, Congress intended to prevent transportation in interstate or foreign commerce of persons who were being unlawfully restrained in order that the captor might secure some benefit to himself. And this is adequately expressed by the words of the enactment.

The rule of ejusdem generis, while firmly established, is only an instrumentality for ascertaining the correct meaning of words when there is uncertainty. Ordinarily, it limits general terms which follow specific ones to matters similar to those specified; but it may not be used to defeat the obvious purpose of legislation. And, while penal statutes are narrowly construed, this does not require rejection of that sense of the words which best harmonizes with the context and the end in view. United States v. Hartwell, 6 Wall. 385, 395; Johnson v. Southern Pacific Co., 196 U.S. 1-17, 18; United States v. Bitty, 208 U.S. 393, 402; United States v. Mescall, 215 U.S. 26-31, 32.

Holding an officer to prevent the captor's arrest is something done with the expectation of benefit to the transgressor. So also is kidnaping with purpose to secure money. These benefits, while not the same, are similar in their general nature and the desire to secure either of them may lead to kidnaping. If the word reward, as commonly understood, is not itself broad enough to include benefits expected to follow the prevention of an arrest, they fall within the broad term, "otherwise."

The words "except, in case of a minor, by a parent thereof" emphasize the intended result of the enactment. They indicate legislative understanding that in their absence a parent, who carried his child away because of affection, might subject himself to condemnation of the statute. Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, 438.

Both questions must be answered in the affirmative.


Summaries of

Gooch v. United States

U.S.
Feb 3, 1936
297 U.S. 124 (1936)

holding that the kidnapping statute does not require a pecuniary motive

Summary of this case from United States v. Vizcarra

holding that ejusdem generis “may not be used to defeat the obvious purpose of legislation”

Summary of this case from United States v. Dicristina

concluding that addition of phrase "or otherwise" into federal kidnapping statute extended jurisdiction of statute "to persons who have been kidnaped and held, not only for reward, but for any other reason"

Summary of this case from United States v. Gibson

rejecting challenge to "Lindbergh Law" governing certain kidnappings, 18 U.S.C. § 1201

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Overstreet

rejecting Commerce Clause challenge to the "Lindbergh Law," 18 U.S.C. § 1201, which outlaws kidnappings that are related to interstate transportation or commerce

Summary of this case from Gallardo v. Saad

rejecting Commerce Clause challenge to the "Lindberg Law," 18 U.S.C. § 1201, which outlaws kidnappings that are related to interstate transportation or commerce

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Watson

noting the exclusion "indicate legislative understanding that," without it, "a parent, who carried his child away because of affection, might subject himself to condemnation of the statute"

Summary of this case from United States v. Mobley

noting that kidnapping an individual with the purpose of securing money satisfies this requirement

Summary of this case from United States v. Weir

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 128 (1936), the Court interpreted the "or otherwise" amendment to encompass any benefit a captor might attempt to receive.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Webster

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 128 (1936), the Supreme Court interpreted the "or otherwise" amendment to encompass any benefit which a captor might attempt to receive for himself. Subsequently, in Healy, the Court held the Act is not limited to kidnapings for an ultimately illegal purpose.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Walker

In Gooch a kidnaping statute which forbade the holding of a victim "for ransom or reward" was amended to read "for ransom or reward or otherwise.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Silva-Chavez

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522 (1936), the Supreme Court held that Congress enacted the kidnapping statute to prevent the transportation in interstate commerce of persons who were unlawfully restrained for the purpose of the captor's securing "some benefit" to himself.

Summary of this case from United States v. Satterfield

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522 (1936), the Supreme Court determined that the addition of this phrase indicated a congressional intent that the statute be given a broad application.

Summary of this case from United States v. Crosby

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522 (1936), the Supreme Court interpreted the phrase "ransom or reward or otherwise" to encompass any benefit which a captor might attempt to receive for himself. This Circuit has held that holding and seizing a person for the purpose of effecting an escape from a penal institution constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201.

Summary of this case from United States v. Cassidy

In Gooch, the defendant was faced with the prospect of arrest by "peace officers" of the state of Texas, and to avoid this the defendant "resisted and disarmed the officers, unlawfully seized and kidnaped them and transported them by automobile from Texas to Oklahoma, and liberated them in the latter State."

Summary of this case from United States v. Wolford

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522, the Supreme Court ruled that an officer who is unlawfully kidnaped to prevent the arrest of the kidnaper is "held for * * * reward or otherwise.

Summary of this case from Hayes v. United States

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522, the history of the act was reviewed and it was there held that Congress intended to prevent transportation in interstate commerce of persons who were being unlawfully restrained in order that the captor might secure some benefit to himself.

Summary of this case from Hess v. United States

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 397, 80 L.Ed. 522, the Supreme Court rejected the contention that the words "ransom" and "reward" mean only pecuniary benefits and that the rule of ejusdem generis restricts the words "or otherwise".

Summary of this case from Collins v. Frisbie

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 397, 80 L.Ed. 522, the Court held that the Act broadly prohibited transportation in interstate commerce of persons who were being unlawfully restrained "in order that the captor might secure some benefit to himself."

Summary of this case from United States v. Bazzell

construing § 1201 to encompass any benefit which a captor might attempt to receive for himself

Summary of this case from United States v. Madison

detailing and approving the ejusdem generis canon with numerous comparable interpretations

Summary of this case from Gonsalves v. Cleveland

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 128, 56 S.Ct. 395, 397, 80 L.Ed. 522 (1936), the Supreme Court interpreted the "or otherwise" amendment to encompass any benefit which a captor might attempt to receive for himself. Subsequently, in Healy, the Court held the Act is not limited to kidnapings for an ultimately illegal purpose.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Jackson

In Gooch, the Court refused to apply the ordinary statutory construction rule of ejusdem generis and rejected the idea that the words "ransom or reward" imputed a pecuniary consideration or an element of valuable payment to the added words. It then determined that "[h]olding an officer to prevent the captor's arrest is something done with the expectation of benefit to the transgressor" and is encompassed by the broad term "otherwise."

Summary of this case from People v. Emerterio

In Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522 (1936), the United States Supreme Court considered an argument identical to the one Crump has raised here.

Summary of this case from Crump v. State

In Gooch v. United States (1936), 297 U.S. 124 [56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522], the "or otherwise" clause was given a broad construction to cover nonmonetary benefits.

Summary of this case from People v. Knowles
Case details for

Gooch v. United States

Case Details

Full title:GOOCH v . UNITED STATES

Court:U.S.

Date published: Feb 3, 1936

Citations

297 U.S. 124 (1936)
56 S. Ct. 395
80 L. Ed. 522

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