UNITED STATES v. HARRIS
Harris led an armed lynch mob into a Tennessee jail and captured four black prisoners. Though the deputy sheriff attempted to protect the prisoners, he was unsuccessful. One of the prisoners died. The United States government brought criminal charges against Sheriff Harris and others under Section 2 of the Force Act of 1871. This act made it a crime for two or more persons to conspire for the purpose of depriving anyone of the equal protection of the laws.
Could the United States try Harris and others under the act?
The Force Act was unconstitutional. The Fourteenth Amendment only authorized Congress to take remedial steps against state action that violated the amendment. The Amendment applied only to acts of the states, not to acts of individuals.