Fong Haw Tan (plaintiff), a Chinese native living in the United States, was convicted of two counts of murder. A jury sentenced Tan to life imprisonment for each count, but the sentence for life imprisonment was construed by the circuit court to impose that sentence on Tan for each of the convictions. Under § 237(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an alien who is sentenced “more than once” for a crime of moral turpitude is deportable. There was a circuit split regarding whether a conviction and sentence for more than one offense, whether committed at the same or at different times, would satisfy the statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve the circuit courts’ different statutory interpretations.