Dixon v. United States

PETITIONER: Keshia Cherie Ashford Dixon
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 05-7053
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 548 US 1 (2006)
GRANTED: Jan 13, 2006
ARGUED: Apr 25, 2006
DECIDED: Jun 22, 2006

ADVOCATES:
Irving L. Gornstein - argued the cause for Respondent
J. Craig Jett - argued the cause for Petitioner

Facts of the case

Keshia Dixon was arrested for illegally purchasing firearms. At her trial, Dixon raised a duress defense, claiming that her boyfriend abused her and that she feared he would harm or kill her or her daughters if she did not buy the firearms. Upon being convicted, Dixon appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that she should not bear the evidentiary burden of proving her duress claim. The Circuit Court rejected Dixon's argument, noting that the circuit's previous cases had clearly established that the duress defense requires the defendant to prove duress by a preponderance of evidence. This ruling conflicted with a ruling on a similar case in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Dixon appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to consider the narrow question of the burden of proof.

Question

When a defendant raises a duress defense, is the burden of proof on the defendant to prove duress by a preponderance of the evidence, or on the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that duress is not applicable?

Media for Dixon v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 2006 in Dixon v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 22, 2006 in Dixon v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Stevens has the opinion in 05-7053, Dixon versus United States.

John Paul Stevens:

In this case, the petitioner made some purchases of firearms at a gun show and violated two criminal statutes when she did so.

She was receiving a firearm when under indictment, and she made false statements in connection with the purchases.

At trial, she did not deny committing the offenses or any of the elements of the offenses, but rather she pleaded the affirmative defense of duress, testifying that she had a boyfriend who had seriously threatened or threatened serious harms to herself and to her two daughters.

The issue that the case turns on is whether -- on the issue of duress, she had the burden of proving that defense by a preponderance of the evidence or, as she contends, it was the Government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not act under duress.

For reasons stated in the opinion we filed with the Clerk, we agree with the Government’s view that she had the burden of proof on the affirmative defense.

Justice Kennedy has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Alito has filed a concurring opinion that Justice Scalia has joined; and Justice Breyer has filed a dissenting opinion that Justice Souter has joined.