Pinkerton v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States, 1946.

328 U.S. 640, 66 S.Ct. 1180, 90 L.Ed. 1489.

Dressler, pp. 768-769


Facts: The Pinkerton brothers were convicted of tax crimes.  All the offenses were based on a single conspiracy. 


Issue: Can we convict Daniel based on the conspiracy even though he was in jail at the time the crimes actually occurred?


Rule: NEW RULE!  In the case of a “continuous conspiracy”, “an overt act of one partner may be the act of all without any new agreement specifically directed to that act” unless a conspirator takes some “affirmative action” to withdraw from the conspiracy.


Analysis: The majority finds that when you have a conspiracy, it’s “all for one and one for all” unless someone affirmatively pulls out of the conspiracy.  Even if they didn’t physically participate in the act for which they’re charged, they can be found at fault just for being in the conspiracy.


Rutledge believes this goes too far.  Since Walter was the only one who committed the actual crimes, and there was no evidence to establish that Daniel helped in any way, finding Daniel at fault imposes a very broad form of conspiratorial liability that this Justice is worried about.


Conclusion: Daniel’s conviction is confirmed.


Notes and Questions


1.     Okay!

2.     A, I think is guilty of solicitation, and then I guess robbery and car stealing as an accomplice.  B is only guilty of robbery, as is C.  D is probably guilty of car stealing and he would be the accomplice to the two robberies of B and C.  However, under Pinkerton, I think everybody would be guilty of everything: conspiracy, one count each, robbery, two counts each, then also aiding and abetting robbery, two counts each, maybe solicitation, one count each, and car stealing, one count each.  Maybe they’d also “inherit” A’s aiding and abetting robbery (two counts each) and aiding and abetting car stealing (one count each).  That’s a heck of a lot of stuff!


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