Leland v. Oregon,
343 U.S. 790 (1952)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Leland v. Oregon, 343 U.S. 790 (1952)

Leland v. Oregon

No. 176

Argued January 29, 1952

Decided June 9, 1952

343 U.S. 790


In a criminal prosecution in an Oregon state court on an indictment for murder in the first degree, appellant pleaded not guilty and gave notice of his intention to prove insanity. Oregon statutes required him to prove his insanity beyond a reasonable doubt, and made a "morbid propensity" no defense. Appellant was found guilty by a jury and was sentenced to death.

Held: These statutes did not deprive appellant of life and liberty without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 343 U. S. 791-802.

1. The trial judge's instructions to the jury, and the charge as a whole, made it clear that the burden was upon the State to prove all the necessary elements of guilt, of the lesser degrees of homicide as well as of the offense charged in the indictment. Pp. 343 U. S. 793-796.

2. The rule announced in Davis v. United States, 160 U. S. 469, that an accused is

"entitled to an acquittal of the specific crime charged if upon all the evidence there is reasonable doubt whether he was capable in law of committing the crime,"

established no constitutional doctrine, but only the rule to be followed in federal courts. P. 343 U. S. 797.

3. Between the Oregon rule requiring the accused, on a plea of insanity, to establish that defense beyond a reasonable doubt, and the rule in effect in some twenty states, which places the burden on the accused to establish his insanity by a preponderance of the evidence or some similar measure of persuasion, there is no difference of such magnitude as to be significant in determining the constitutional question here presented. P. 343 U. S. 798.

4. That a practice is followed by a large number of states is not conclusive as to whether it accords with due process, but may be considered in determining whether it "offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." P. 343 U. S. 798.

5. The instant case is not one in which it is sought to enforce against the State a right which has been held to be secured to defendants in federal courts by the Bill of Rights. Pp. 343 U. S. 798-799.

6. Oregon's policy with respect to the burden of proof on the issue of sanity cannot be said to violate generally accepted concepts of basic standards of justice. P. 343 U. S. 799.

Page 343 U. S. 791

7. Tot v. United States, 319 U. S. 463, does not require a different conclusion from that here reached. P. 343 U. S. 799.

8. The contention that the instructions to the jury in this case may have confused the jury as to the distinction between the State's burden of proving premeditation and the other elements of the crime charged and appellant's burden of proving insanity, cannot be sustained. P. 343 U. S. 800.

9. Due process is not violated by the Oregon statute which provides that a

"morbid propensity to commit prohibited acts, existing in the mind of a person, who is not shown to have been incapable of knowing the wrongfulness of such acts, forms no defense to a prosecution therefor."

Pp. 343 U. S. 800-801.

10. The "irresistible impulse" test of legal sanity is not "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty"; and due process does not require the State to adopt that test, rather than the "right and wrong" test. Pp. 343 U. S. 800-801.

11. The trial court's refusal to require the district attorney to make one of appellant's confessions available to his counsel before trial did not deny due process in the circumstances of this case. Pp. 343 U. S. 801-802.

190 Ore. 598, 227 P. 2d 785, affirmed.

Appellant's conviction of murder, challenged as denying him due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, was affirmed by the State Supreme Court. 190 Ore. 598, 227 P.2d 785. On appeal to this Court, affirmed, p. 343 U. S. 802.

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