Mullaney v. Wilbur – (Heat of Passion Test)
Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U.S. 684, 95 S.Ct. 1881, 44 L.Ed.2d 508 (1975)
BY: James F. Polk – AISOL YEAR ONE STUDENT
- June 1966 Wilbur found guilty of Murder.
- The conviction was a result of a pre-trial statement made by the Defendant.
- Defendant’s argument was that he killed the victim in the heat of the moment because of a homosexual advance.
- A Murder Conviction in the State of Main carried with it a life sentence.
- A Manslaughter Conviction in the State of Main carried with it a 20-year sentence.
- The rule in the State of Main was that the Defendant in a Murder prosecution had to prove that they acted in the heat of the moment for the Prosecution to charge them with Manslaughter instead.
- Defendant appealed to the Main State Appeals Court that he lacked malice aforethought and therefore the State could only convict him of Manslaughter. He argued that the burden to disprove heat of the moment passion rested on the State.
- The Defendant argued that the homosexual advance was in fact a homosexual assault and that the homicide was not unlawful but was at the maximum a Manslaughter due to lack of malice aforethought.
- Main State Prosecutor Appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court took it up on Certiorari.
Issue: Did the old rule in the State of Main violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it placed the burden of proof on the Defendant to prove their heat of the moment passion in a Murder Trial in order for the Prosecution to change the charge to Manslaughter rather than requiring the Prosecution to prove lack of heat of the moment passion as a prima facie element to a Murder Prosecution?
- The old State of Main Rule was ruled to have violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The State has to prove every element of a crime ( as defined by In re Winship 397 U.S. 385).
- The punishment for Murder is the rest of a person’s life and so the State must prove all elements of the crime. The burden is on the State.
NOTE: Rule of the Main Appeals Court AFFIRMED by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Conclusion: 496 F.2d 1303, affirmed.
POWELL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. REHNQUIST, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined.
Note on Concurrence: Two Concurring Justices opined that since the main elements of the crime were already proved, the burden of proving heat of the moment passion could rest on the Defendant.
Discussion: Main now has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the lack of heat of the moment passion &/or sudden provocation in a murder trial. The whole trend in prosecution had already shifted in other areas to requiring the Prosecution to prove lack of heat of the moment passion.