Note and Comment
Constitutional Law – Applicability of First Ten Amendments to Unincorporated Territory – A man was killed aboard an American ship in a Virgin Island port. A police investigation was started the next day and continued for twelve days thereafter, during which twenty three witnesses were examined by the government. During most of the investigation the prisoners were present, and most of the testimony was translated into Spanish for their benefit, that being the only language they understood. No formal charge had been made against them and they were without counsel, but they were given an opportunity to “explain” after the testimony of each witness. The record was then transferred to the District court where the same judge presided, assisted by four lay judges. Formal charge was made, and the prisoners had counsel. The trial consisted of arguments on the facts as found in the above investigation, no more witnesses being called, although the prisoners were given the opportunity of calling witnesses in their behalf. They were found guilty. Act of Congress of March 3, 1917 (39 Stat. c. 171) provided that, as to judicial proceedings, the local laws should continue in effect “in so far as compatible with the chang’ed sovereignty,” until Congress should otherwise provide. It was assumed that the above proceedings were in accord’ with the “local laws” as established by Denmark. Held, the prisoners are entitled to a new trial, for the new sovereignty gives them the right to be confronted by the witnesses against them, and to be heard through cross-examination. Soto v. U. S., (C. C. A., 3d Circ., 1921), 273 Fed. 628.