RESPONDENT: Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary
LOCATION: Florida General Assembly
DOCKET NO.: 62
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
CITATION: 368 US 351 (1962)
ARGUED: Dec 13, 1961
DECIDED: Jan 15, 1962
Facts of the case
Media for Seymour v. Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 13, 1961 in Seymour v. Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary
Number 62, Paul Seymour, Petitioner, versus Merle E. Schneckloth, Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary.
Glen A. Wilkinson:
Mr. Chief Justice, if it please the Court.
This case is here by virtue of an order of this Court granting a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court for the State of Washington.
The facts if the Court please, are these, Paul Seymour, the petitioner is an American Indian.
He is an enrolled member of the Colville Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation in the State of Washington.
On or before August 25, 1956, the petitioner with others burglarized and I will assume during all of my statement that the facts of the burglary are true, burglarized the market in the Village of East Omak, in the State of Washington.
I should like to refer the Court at this point to Appendix B of our opening brief which contains a sketch of the Colville Indian Reservation as it existed prior to 1892.
If the Court please, you will note that the northern boundary is the Canadian boundary.
The eastern and southern boundaries are the Columbia River.
The western boundary is the Okanogan River.
You will note that inside the boundary on the west -- on the east side of the Okanogan River is the Village of East Omak.
On August 27, 1956, Seymour was arraigned in the Superior Court in and for the County of Okanogan.
He was charged with the state crime of burglary in a second degree.
He pleaded not guilty.
On October 09, 1956, not quite two months later, he appeared in the court with appointed counsel and counsel asked to leave under the Washington procedure to withdraw the plea of not guilty to the crime of burglary in the second degree and to enter a plea to the crime of attempt of burglary in the second degree.
That request was granted.
The Court sentenced petitioner to a term of not to exceed seven and a half years in the state penitentiary.
Apparently, under the Washington State procedure that is in referred to the appropriate administrative body and that body took action to set seven and a half years as the minimum punishment.
After confinement, Seymour applied to the Supreme Court to the State Washington for a writ of habeas corpus.
Among other allegations, he alleged that the crime committed was within Indian country as defined by Section 1151 of Title 18 of the United States Code and that therefore, the States of Washington had no jurisdiction to try or sentence him.
To return an answer of the Superintendent of the Washington State Penitentiary according to the Washington Supreme Court raised factual issues which it referred to the Superior Court in and for the County of Okanogan.
It was to determine among other things whether the locus of the crime was within Indian country.
The Superior Court held a hearing, took testimony and it made a study of the statutes involved.
It held that the situs of the crime was not Indian country and that therefore, the courts of the State of Washington had jurisdiction.
In reaching this conclusion, it followed the prior ruling of its own at 1919 relating to the same reservation and concluded that since the precise track of land upon which the crime was committed had passed from Indian travel ownership to a trust a lot in status to an individual member and then to a non-Indian in fee simple.
The area was not within Indian country as defined by the Federal Criminal Code.
On brief, this is the issue which is before this Court today namely, was the locus of the crime within Indian country as defined by Section 1151 (a) of the Federal Criminal Code, Title 18.
That section reads, “All land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government notwithstanding the issuance of any patent is Indian country and as to Indian country federal jurisdiction is exclusive.”
We say the Washington Supreme Court committed error to show that it did -- it's necessary to review a series of four activities relating to the Colville Indian Reservation.