United States v. Healy

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Cumberland Hospital

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 376 US 75 (1964)
ARGUED: Jan 06, 1964
DECIDED: Feb 17, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Healy

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 06, 1964 in United States v. Healy

Earl Warren:

United States, Appellant, versus David Thomas Healy et al.

Mr. Pollak, you may proceed with your argument.

Stephen J. Pollak:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is a direct appeal from a dismissal by the District Court of an indictment in two counts.

The unlawful acts alleged in the counts consisted of the forcing by the defendants at gunpoint of the pilot of an airborne aircraft to transport them from the air above Dade County, Florida to the Republic of Cuba.

Count 1 of the indictment alleged that these Acts were in violation of the Federal Kidnapping Statute, which makes it a crime to transport a person unlawfully seized and held for ransom, reward or otherwise.

These add to the Castro Revolution.

Stephen J. Pollak:

The date of the alleged Act was April 13, 1962.

The Court read the statutory words, ransom or reward or otherwise, to require a wrongful goal of a pecuniary or monetary sort and held that transportation to Cuba was not such a goal and dismissed the count.

The issue presented whether the words for ransom or reward or otherwise, limit the kidnapping statute to a holding for a monetary minimum.

Count 2 alleged that these Acts constituted a violation of the air piracy statute.

This statute makes it a crime to seize by force an aircraft in flight in air commerce.

The District Court held that the Cessna airplane that the defendants were alleged to have seized was not an aircraft in flight in air commerce.

It read those words to mean only a commercial airliner which carries passengers or goods for hire.

The issue presented is whether these words, "an aircraft in flight in air commerce" limit the statute to commercial airliners, the seizure of commercial airlines.

I would like first to address myself to the dismissal issue raised by the dismissal of Count 1, the kidnapping count.

And then to turn briefly to the air piracy count.

In 1932, the Congress passed the Federal Kidnapping Statute, it was known as the Lindbergh Law and it made it a crime to transport in interstate commerce a person who had been unlawfully seized and was held for ransom or reward.

Two years later, the Congress amended the statute to add the words, "making it a crime to transport a person unlawfully seized and held for ransom or reward or otherwise, except in the case of a minor by a parent," made an exception for the seizure or kidnapping of a child by his parents.

The purpose of these amendments, as stated in the courts of the Committees, the Senate and the House, was to extend the kidnapping statute to persons held not only for reward but for any other purpose.

One year later, this Court in the case of Gooch versus the United States, had occasioned to study the statute and interpret the statute.

The court there faced the very issue on which the District Court here dismissed the kidnapping count, that is whether the words for ransom or reward or otherwise reached beyond a pecuniary purpose.

The Acts there alleged in the Gooch case was the holding of a -- of an officer for the purpose of the defendants avoiding or the accused avoiding arrest, holding of an officer to avoid arrest.

The Court reviewed the legislative history.

In fact, substantial body of the history is printed in the footnote of the Court in that opinion and it held that the statute was intended to reach and did reach a holding for any purpose to secure a benefit to the person who did the seizing.

It held that the statute was not restricted to a holding for a pecuniary purpose.

We believe that this decision in Gooch establishes the error of the District Court, the statute reaches a holding for any other purpose as the Congress stated and that transportation to Cuba here involved is such a purpose.

Indeed, the appellees concede that the statute reaches beyond the holding for a pecuniary purpose.

At page 9 of their brief and thereby relinquished or moved away from the ground on which the District Court rested its dismissal.

And they argue that the statute reaches only an unlawful seizure, an unlawful holding for an unlawful purpose.