Patterson v. New York
432 U.S. 197 (1977)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Patterson v. New York, 432 U.S. 197 (1977)

Patterson v. New York

No. 75-1861

Argued March 1, 1977

Decided June 17, 1977

432 U.S. 197

Syllabus

New York law requiring that the defendant in a prosecution for second-degree murder prove by a preponderance of the evidence the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance in order to reduce the crime to manslaughter held not to violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Mullaney v. Wilbur,421 U. S. 684, distinguished. Pp. 432 U. S. 201-216.

(a) Such affirmative defense does not serve to negative any facts of the crime which the State must prove in order to convict, but constitutes a separate issue on which the defendant is required to carry the burden of persuasion. Pp. 432 U. S. 206-207.

(b) The Due Process Clause does not put New York to the choice of abandoning such an affirmative defense or undertaking to disprove its existence in order to convict for a crime which is otherwise within the State's constitutional powers to sanction by substantial punishment. If the State chooses to recognize a factor that mitigates the degree of criminality or punishment, it may assure itself that the fact has been established with reasonable certainty, and to recognize at all a mitigating circumstance does not require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt its nonexistence in each case in which the fact is put in issue if, in its judgment, this would be too cumbersome, expensive, and inaccurate. Pp. 432 U. S. 207-209.

39 N.Y.2d 288, 347 N.E.2d 898, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 432 U. S. 216. REHNQUIST, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 432 U. S. 198

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