Friday, December 6, 2013

Wildenhus’ Case case brief

Wildenhus’ Case case brief summary
120 U.S. 1 (1887)

Appellant Belgian sailor was incarcerated in a New Jersey jail in connection with a homicide, which occurred on a Belgian vessel while it was moored in a New Jersey port. The sailor and appellant Belgian consul sought review of a judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey, which denied their application for a writ of habeas corpus to effect the sailor's release to the consul's custody.

The sailor allegedly inflicted a fatal stab wound on a shipmate while they were below deck on a Belgian steamship, which was docked at a New Jersey port. After the sailor was arrested and incarcerated pending further proceedings, appellants unsuccessfully sought habeas corpus relief to effect his release to the consul so that the sailor could be dealt with under Belgium law.


  • The court affirmed the circuit court's denial of the writ and found that the onboard incident was such that it disturbed the onshore public peace, despite the fact that only those on the ship witnessed the incident. 
  • The felonious homicide was a subject for the local jurisdiction, and the consul had no right to interfere to prevent the proper local authorities from proceeding with the case in a regular way. 
  • As such, Convention Concerning the Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of Consular Officers, Mar. 9, 1880, U.S.-Belg., art. XI, 21 Stat. 776, 781 did not entitle the consul to take custody of the sailor. 
  • The sailor was not entitled to be discharged from his incarceration.
The court affirmed the circuit court's judgment.

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