United States v. South Hero Creamery Association

White & Gates 1142 (1925)


N.J. No. 13251

District Court, District of Vermont

Mar. 13, 1925

Information in two counts alleging violation of section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act. Jury trial. Verdict of guilty on one count, not guilty on one count.

The United States attorney filed an information against the South Hero Creamery Association, a corporation, South Hero, Vt., alleging shipment by said corporation, from the State of Vermont into the State of Massachusetts, of a quantity of butter which was adulterated and misbranded, in violation of the Food and Drugs Act. It was alleged in the information that the article was adulterated for the reason that a product deficient in butterfat had been substituted for butter which the article purported to be, and for the further reason that a product which consisted of less than 80 percent by weight of milk fat had been substituted for butter, a product which should contain not less than 80 percent by weight of milk fat, as prescribed by act of March 4, 1923, which the said article purported to be. It was alleged that the article was misbranded for the reason that it was in package form and the quantity of the contents was not plainly and conspicuously marked on the outside of the package.

The case having come on for trial before the court and jury, after the submission of evidence and arguments by counsel, the court delivered the following instructions to the jury.

HOWE, District Judge.

Gentlemen of the jury: There are just two questions of fact in this case for you to decide; one question of fact on each charge. There are two charges that the Government makes against the South Hero Creamery. First, they say that they shipped in interstate commerce some butter that didn't contain 80 percent of butterfat, that that shipment was made on the 23d day of June; and second, they say that they shipped this butter in interstate commerce without marking on the tubs the weight. It is an offense against the laws of the United States to ship in interstate commerce any butter that contains less than 80 percent of milk fat, or butterfat; those terms we have been told mean the same thing, and it is equally an offense to ship food, and, among other things, butter, without marking the weight on the tubs, if it goes in tubs. "Whatever the packages are [they] must have the weight marked on them. Those are the two questions of fact. You can find the creamery guilty of both of these offenses, you can find it not guilty of either offense, or you can find it guilty of one and not guilty of the other.

Now, this is a criminal case, and the same rules that I have given you here repeatedly apply to this case just as much as to any other criminal case. The creamery is presumed to be innocent, and that presumption is to be weighed in its favor as evidence in the case. If there are two theories in the case, each equally reasonable, it is your duty to adopt the theory leading to innocence, rather than the one leading to guilt. I think you have all been on several trials in which we have gone over this. Is there anyone on this panel who hasn't heard these rules? The reason is, gentlemen, that different lawyers come in, and they don't know how often you have heard these rules. It would be an error on the part of the court to submit a case to the jury without giving these rules. No unfavorable inference can be drawn against the creamery because it has been complained of and charged with this crime. Remember that. The reasonable doubt doctrine, you will remember that. The defendant cannot testify, because it is a corporation. It is an invisible person, so I won't need to say anything about the defendant's testimony. The butter maker has testified, and the inspector and the chemist and the professor. Now, the young man that makes the butter over there testified. You have heard some questions asked him about what he told down in Boston to the chief of the Agricultural Department. You weigh the testimony of all these witnesses and give them just such credit as you think they ought to have. It is for you to say whether you are satisfied that this lot of butter didn't have 80 percent of butterfat while it was in transit.

There is no offense committed here, gentlemen, unless you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that when that butter was taken to the station over there, at the South Hero railroad station, and while it was on those cars to Boston, in transit, it must have contained less than 80 percent of butterfat. The evidence of the Government is that it didn't contain 80 percent, except one of the samples. The evidence of the young man that made it is that he tested it and it tested all right, 80 percent. He says he understood the law required him to put on weights. He understood that when he was before this man down in Boston.

You take the evidence in the case, gentlemen, and all the circumstances and all the inferences to be drawn from the evidence, and, if you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, after giving the creamery the benefit of the presumption of innocence, if you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that when this butter was delivered to the railroad station, and while it was in transit to Boston, it didn't contain 80 percent, you will find the defendant guilty under the first count. If you are not satisfied of those facts beyond a reasonable doubt you will find it not guilty. As to the second count, take into consideration all the evidence in the case. If you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the weight wasn't marked on these 36 tubs of butter, you will find the creamery guilty under the second count. If you are not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the tubs were not marked, you will find the defendant not guilty under the second count. You may take the case, gentlemen.

The jury then retired and after due deliberation returned a verdict of guilty on the adulteration charge and of not guilty on the misbranding charge.