Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Smith v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 18, 2012
Case #: 11-8976
Court Below: 651 F.3d 30 (D.C. Cir 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/4D24345A5500D669852578DC004E06B6/$file/05-3050-1321413.pdf

Criminal Law: Whether the defendant bears the burden of proving withdrawal from a conspiracy or whether the burden shifts to the government once the defendant meets the burden of production to show withdrawal from the conspiracy.

After being convicted on multiple counts of conspiracy along with five other defendants, Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and argued that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that he—rather than the government—bore the burden of proof to show that he had withdrawn from the conspiracy prior to the relevant statute of limitations period.

Petitioner asserted that due process required the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a member of the conspiracy. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and held that Petitioner had the burden of proving that he affirmatively withdrew from the conspiracy. In so holding, the DC Circuit joined the Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 10th and 11th Circuits that have said that the burden of proving withdrawal always rests on the defendant. On the other side of this well-developed circuit split the Courts of Appeals for the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 9th Circuits have held that once the defendant meets his burden of production that he has withdrawn from the conspiracy prior to the relevant limitations period, the burden of persuasion shifts to the government.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari solely on the issue of whether the defendant bears the burden of proving withdrawal from a conspiracy or whether the burden shifts to the government once the defendant meets the burden of production to show withdrawal from the conspiracy.