Chapter 3 Case Briefs

1. Read chapter 3 and Acknowledge that you have done so.
2. After reading the chapter carefully, brief the cases listed below. (Note that before starting your brief please look at the Sample Briefs of Martin V. Ohio.
a. State v. Burrell (page 100);
b. People v. levy on (page 106);
c. William v. State on (page 119).

Sample Brief :ample brief. MARTIN V. OHIO 107 S. Ct. 1098 (1987)

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FACTS: Martin (D) and her husband got in an argument. D’s husband hit D in the head. She went upstairs, put on a robe, and came down again with her husband’s gun, which she intended to “dispose of. ” Her husband asked her what she had and came toward her. She shot at him five or six times, hitting him three times, hitting him three times and killing him. D was tried for aggravated murder. She claimed self-defense. Under state law, self-defense is an affirmative defense on which the accused has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. The judge instructed the jury. D was convicted. The state court affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

ISSUE: May a state require the accused to bear the burden of proof for affirmative defense such as self-defense?

DECISION: Yes, Judgment affirmed.


1. The Due Process Clause requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute a crime before a conviction may be obtained. [ In re Winship, 397 U. S. 358 U. S. 358 (1970) ] Most states have assumed the burden of disproving affirmative defense, but the Winship rule does not prevent a state from requiring the accused to prove an affirmative defense, such as extreme emotional disturbance, that may reduce a murder to a manslaughter. [ Pattreson v. New York, 432 U. S. 197 (1977)

2. In this case, the jury was instructed that the prosecution must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. It would acquit if it found a reasonable doubt as to any of the elements, or if it found by a preponderance of the evidence that D acted in self-defense; i. e., that she had not precipitated that confrontation, that she honestly believed she was in danger, and that she satisfied any duty to retreat or avoid danger. This is all that the Due Process Clause requires.

3. D claims that the state had to prove that her conduct was unlawful, but that if she acted in self-defense the conduct was lawful. Therefore, the state should have been required to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, under the state law, the necessary unlawfulness consists of the conduct that satisfies the elements of the offense.

4. When the fifth amendment and the fourteenth amendment Due Process Clause were adopted, the common law rule that the defendant had to prove affirmative defense prevailed. Now only two states follow that approach, requiring the defendant to prove self defense, but this dose not make the law in those two states unconstitutional.

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