469 U.S. 948 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

MORAN v. OHIO , 469 U.S. 948 (1984)

469 U.S. 948

No. 83-6759

Supreme Court of the United States

October 29, 1984

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Cuyahoga County.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, with whom Justice MARSHALL joins, dissenting.

Petitioner was convicted by an Ohio jury of the murder of her husband Willie Moran. She asserted at trial that she had acted in self-defense, as a result of the repeated and brutal beatings she had suffered at her husband's hands. She seeks certiorari

Page 469 U.S. 948 , 949

to review the state appellate court's holding that the jury properly was instructed that she had the burden of proving self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. According to petitioner, the Due Process Clause forbids the State to punish her for murder when the jury that convicted her may well have thought it as likely as not that she acted in self-defense. I would grant certiorari to consider the substantial constitutional question raised by this petition-a question that this Court has labeled as "colorable" and "plausible" in previous decisions and that has for years divided state courts and lower federal courts.



There was substantial testimony at petitioner's trial that her husband-a man of violent temperament who virtually always carried firearms and owned a collection of pistols, rifles, and shotguns-had repeatedly beaten and brutalized her. For example, in one incident, Willie Moran " had her by the neck, by the throat, and he was hitting" her with a gun. In another incident, Willie Moran "hit her and knocked her off the chair and, then, kicked her." Petitioner's mother testified that earlier in the very week in which the murder occurred she saw Willie Moran "hit [ petitioner] and knocked her on the floor, and I seen him take his feet and was kicking her."

On May 15, 1981, petitioner and Willie Moran had their last fight. According to petitioner's testimony, Willie Moran had told her that he wanted some money that he thought she had saved. He threatened that if petitioner did not have the money for him by the time he woke up from a nap, he would "blow [her] damn brains out." Petitioner, who did not have the money, unsuccessfully called a friend for help. Then, realizing that she had no way of raising the necessary funds, she entered the camper where Willie Moran was sleeping, picked up his gun, and fatally shot him.


At trial, petitioner pleaded not guilty, asserting that the killing was done in self-defense. [Footnote 1] Petitioner's theory at trial was that [469 U.S. 948 , 950]

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