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Patterson v. New York

Citation. 432 U.S. 197,97 S. Ct. 2319, 53 L. Ed. 2d 281,1977 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Appellant was convicted of second-degree murder. Appellant argued that his due process rights were violated when the State placed upon him the burden of proving his affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Criminal intent can be established by some action by which a defendant either draws attention to his exposure or by display in a place so public that it must be presumed it was intended that he be seen by others.


Appellant was convicted of second-degree murder. In New York State, there are two elements of the crime of second-degree murder: the intent to cause death and actually causing the death of a person. The jury was instructed that Appellant had the burden of proving any affirmative defenses by a preponderance of the evidence. Appellant argued that the absence of extreme emotional disturbance should have to be proved by the State and not by the defense.


Whether Appellant’s due process rights were violated when the Court placed the burden on him to prove an affirmative defense.


New York State has not violated Appellant’s due process rights and the conviction is sustained.
New York State allows a defendant to show that his actions were caused by a mental infirmity not rising to the level of insanity. This defense does not negate any of the facts of the crime; it is a separate issue that a defendant is required to carry.

The Court’s holding in Mullaney v. Wilbur is not contrary to this holding. Mullaney held that a State must prove every ingredient of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If a fact is so important as in Mullaney where it allowed for a conviction of a lesser offense, then the State should have a burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt the existence or nonexistence of that fact.


The dissent argued that the Court is now allowing the Legislature to shift at-will the burden of persuasion with respect to any factor in a criminal case. The dissent argued that New York State’s ‘extreme emotional disturbance’ test is so similar to the heat of passion test that it should be borne by the prosecution.


The Court ruled that requiring the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every fact or circumstance that would act as mitigating factors would be burdensome, costly and inaccurate. As long as the State is required to prove the elements of the crime, it is constitutional to put the burden on a defendant to prove mitigating factors.

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