SSR 75-25c: SECTIONS 202(a) and 202(g) (42 U.S.C. 402(a) and 402(g)) -- CONVICTION OF HOMICIDE -- IRAN -- EFFECT ON ENTITLEMENT TO MOTHER'S INSURANCE BENEFITS
20 CFR 404.364
Cooley v. Weinberger, 398 F Supp 479 (6/24/74)
- The claimant was denied entitlement to social security benefits based on her conviction of the voluntary and intentional homicide of her husband (the wage earner) in Iran. The widow disagreed with this determination by stating that in her conviction in Iran she was not afforded the same facets of due process she would have received had she been charged and convicted in the United States. She further contended that the Iranian conviction was not for an intentional homicide. Held, Secretary properly denied benefits on the basis of such conviction since the procedures applied by Iranian courts (regardless of whether they afforded claimant the same due process safeguards which would have been available in the United States) were likely to secure for her an impartial administration of justice. Further Held, claimant's conviction was a conviction for "intentional" homicide as such term is used in Section 404.364 of the Social Security Administration Regulations No. 4.
Daugherty, District Judge:
On March 26, 1974, the Court entered herein a Memorandum Opinion in which it was concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the denial of disability benefits to the Plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. § 402(g), that the decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (Secretary) should be affirmed and this action should be dismissed.
The Court now has under consideration Plaintiff's Motion For New Trial which is supported by a Brief. The Defendant opposes the Motion by a Response thereto with supporting Brief.
In Plaintiff's Motion For New Trial two points are raised. They are substantially as follows:
1. In her criminal conviction in Iran Plaintiff was not afforded the same facets of due process she should have received had she been charged and convicted in the United States, therefore, the Secretary cannot afford full faith and credit or comity to the Iranian conviction and on the basis thereof deny her benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 402(g).
2. Plaintiff's Iranian conviction was not for an intentional homicide, therefore, the same was improperly used to deny her benefits under the above Statute.
The Court has hereto fore considered these points, has determined them to be without merit, both legally and factually, and thereupon indicated by Memorandum Opinion that the decision of the Secretary in his denial of said benefits to the Plaintiff because of her Iranian conviction for the homicide of her husband, the insured individual, should be affirmed and this action dismissed. However, in consideration of the Motion For New Trial the Court will elaborate further on these two points.
In its Memorandum Opinion of March 26, 1974 the Court recited that things done (such as a criminal conviction) in one sovereignty (Iran) in pursuance of the laws of that sovereignty (Iran) are regarded as valid and binding everywhere, citing 16 AmJur 2d, Conflicts of Law, § 4 p. 11. The Court further stated in said Memorandum Opinion that Plaintiff's conviction in Iran was based on and accomplished pursuant to the laws of Iran and therefore is a valid conviction here and was properly regarded as such in this case by the Secretary. The Court also said that the test here is the final conviction in Iran, not the local (Iranian) procedures by which it was accomplished.
Plaintiff disagrees with the foregoing and insists that because Iran did not afford Plaintiff the very same facets of due process which this country affords in its criminal process, the Secretary erred in denying the benefits to the Plaintiff because of her Iranian conviction for the homicide of her husband, the insured individual.
Plaintiff relies on Griffin v. Griffin, 327 U.S. 220, 90 L.Ed. 635, 66 S.Ct. 596 (1946). This case is not in point. Griffin stands for the proposition that a judgment obtained in a jurisdiction in violation of its own procedural due process is not entitled to full faith and credit when sued upon (or used) in another jurisdiction. Plaintiff does not contend that she was not afforded Iranian due process. Plaintiff contends that Iran did not afford her the same due process as is prescribed and afforded in the United States in its criminal process.
The early case of Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 95, 40 L.Ed. 113, 16 S.Ct. 139 (1895), held that a French judgment should be given validity in the United States even though plaintiff in France was allowed to testify without oath or cross examination which was in accordance with the laws and practices of France (and not in accordance with the laws and practices of the United States).
47 AmJur 2d, Judgments, §1247, p. 246 states:
- § 1247. -- Judgments of foreign nations.
- The recognition to be accorded a foreign judgment is not necessarily affected by the fact that the procedure in the courts of the country in which such judgment was rendered differs from that of the courts of the country in which the judgment is relied on.
- However, to give a judgment rendered by a court of another nation full recognition, its proceedings must have been conducted with no flagrant departure from the ordinary course of judicial procedure, but, on the contrary, according to the course of a civilized jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice. In this connection, it has been declared that the judgment must have been rendered upon due allegations, proofs, and opportunity to defend against the same.
Hilton v. Guyot, supra, is cited as the pertinent authority for the above.
In this connection, the Court will take judicial notice of the Treaty of Amnity (sic), Economic Relations and Consular Rights between the United States of America and Iran, 8 U.S.T. 901 (1955), which treaty was in force at the time of the homicide of the insured individual and Plaintiff's Iranian criminal proceedings which are involved in this case. The rights thereunder to be afforded the Plaintiff of just and humane treatment, the right to contact a consular representative, to be informed of the charges against her, the facilities necessary to her defense, and a prompt and a fair disposition of her case are shown by the record to have been afforded the Plaintiff in connection with her Iranian conviction in such manner that the Secretary had substantial evidence before him to determine and decide to recognize and give validity to the Iranian judgment of conviction as a bar to Plaintiff receiving the desired benefits. It further is apparent from said Treaty that the United States has recognized the Iranian Courts as Courts of competent jurisdiction over citizens of the United States who violate Iranian criminal laws and that the course of judicial procedure in Iran is according to the course of a civilized jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice. It follows that the Secretary was also legally correct in according recognition to Plaintiff's Iranian judgment of conviction for the homicide of the insured individual.
The case of Somportex Limited v. Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp., 453 F.2d 435 (Third Cir. 1971) holds that judgments of foreign courts should be recognized in the United States under principles of comity and provides further that comity should be withheld only when its acceptance would be contrary or prejudicial to the interests of the nation (United States) called upon to give it effect. Under the principles of this case the record reveals substantial evidence to support the Secretary's determination and decision that the Iranian conviction of Plaintiff was accomplished in such manner and under such procedures that comity should not be withheld as being contrary or prejudicial to the interests of the United States. One interest of the United States here involved is that one should not recover benefits payable on the death of a party whose life he or she has feloniously taken. New York Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Armstrong, 117 U.S. 591, 29 L.Ed. 997, 6 S.Ct. 877 (1886). Another interest of the United States is that homicide is here prohibited as in Iran. Any by said Treaty the United States has not found the Iranian judicial procedure to be offensive.
In any event and under any of the above cases or principles announced therein the Court finds and concludes that the Secretary did not misapply the law but followed the law and had substantial evidence in the record before him to support his determination and decision to give recognition and validity to Plaintiff's Iranian conviction as a bar under the regulation to her request for benefits. This includes Plaintiff's complaint that she was not afforded a speedy trial for the record contains substantial evidence that Plaintiff was in fact under the circumstances afforded a speedy trial in Iran.
As to Plaintiff's second point, supra, the regulation involved requires a final conviction by a Court of competent jurisdiction of the felonious and intentional homicide of an insured individual. The conviction of Plaintiff is final and this is not disputed. Heretofore in this Order it has been shown that the record reveals that the Iranian Court involved as a Court of competent jurisdiction over the Plaintiff and the crime of which she was convicted. Plaintiff was convicted of a felonious homicide and she does not contend otherwise. It is undisputed that the insured individual was her former husband and that she killed him. But Plaintiff asserts that she was not convicted of intentional homicide as that term is used in the regulation involved.
In Plaintiff's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Administrative Law Judge (Tr. 63) it is stated:
- The five Judge Court convicted claimant (Plaintiff) of willful homicide and sentenced her to ten years hard labor. (Underscoring added).
As hereafter shown a willful homicide is idential (sic) with an intentional homicide. So Plaintiff admits an intentional homicide.
It is clear from the record that Plaintiff was convicted under Article 170 or (sic) the Iranian Penal Code and this section covers willful or intentional homicide. The Iranian record of Plaintiff's hearing (Tr. 253-263) reveals at page 257 that Plaintiff,
- . . . was indicted for the murder of her husband Melvin Cooley with a revolver . . . under Article 170 of the Penal Code . . . (Underscoring added)
and at page 258,
- . . . Mrs. Doris (Plaintiff) used the weapon to shoot at him and as given in the opinion of the coroner the man was murdered as a result of receiving three shots; the court has thus repudiated the defendant's denial and under Section 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and considering Section 44 or (sic) the same Act she was sentenced to ten years in jail at hard labor . . .(Underscoring added)
Article 170 provides:
- The penalty prescribed for an offender who commits willful homicide shall be death, except if otherwise provided by law. (Tr. 71)
Plaintiff's Iranian attorney reported (Tr. 291) that,
- I based my defence (sic) on the plea that the murder had been a non-voluntary murder.
- Secondly, I hoped that even if the court considered the case to be one of voluntary murder it should consider that it had been committed in self- defence (sic), for according to Iranian law, murder in self-defence (sic) is not punishable. (Tr. 291).
This attorney further reported,
- Unfortunately the First Bench of the Criminal Court which tried Mrs. Cooley, invalidated these points . . . .(Tr. 291).
- Nevertheless we were able to commute the death sentence to ten years imprisonment. (Tr. 291).
The record in evidence thus clearly shows Plaintiff was convicted of willful and voluntary murder under Article 170 of the Iranian Penal Code.
The Report of the Iranian hearing (Tr. 258-259) then reveals that Plaintiff's Iranian attorney sought reversal of her conviction by the First Bench on the grounds that the murder was not intentional and that instead of being convicted under Article 170 (for willful homicide) her crime fell under Article 171 as quasi-intentional homicide or Article 177 as unintentional homicide. The Second Bench of the Iranian Court denied this request for reversal and said,
- . . . no reason exists to justify its reversal. (Tr. 259).
"Willfully" to act is defined in Federal Jury Practice and Instructions, Devitt & Blackmar, Vol. 1, §16.13 as follows:
- "§16.13 'Willfully' -- To Act An act is done 'willfully' if done voluntarily and intentionally, and with bad purpose either to disobey or to disregard the law."
Thus, the record contains substantial evidence that Plaintiff was convicted of the intentional homicide of the insured individual, her husband, by putting three shots in his body.
The Court finds and concludes that the Secretary did not misapply the law in this instance and that substantial evidence in the records shows as found by the Secretary (See Tr. 39 and 42) that Plaintiff was convicted of the voluntary and intentional homicide or murder of the insured individual. The Secretary made reference to Article or Section 171 of the Iranian Penal Code but Plaintiff was not convicted under this Article or Section. She was charged and convicted under Article 170 for willful (or voluntary and intentional) homicide. This is seen from the Report of the Iranian hearing and the Report of Plaintiff's attorney as abovementioned.
Plaintiff's Motion For New Trial is denied and again as shown in the Court's Memorandum Opinion of March 26, 1974 as supplemented by this Order the Secretary did not misapply the law in this case and there is substantial evidence in the record to support the finding and decision of the Secretary that Plaintiff was properly denied disability benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 402(g) by reason of her having been convicted by a Court of competent jurisdiction of the felonious and intentional homicide of the insured individual. The decision of the Secretary therefore should be affirmed and Plaintiff's action dismissed.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare should be and hereby is affirmed.