Rogers v. Tennessee

Facts of the Case

Prior to his death, the victim remained comatose for approximately 15 months after being stabbed by petitioner. Petitioner was convicted of murder, and alleged that his conviction was precluded under common law since the victim did not die within a year and a day after petitioner’s act. Upon petition for writ of certiorari, petitioner appealed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, which judicially abolished the year and a day rule in the state and upheld petitioner’s conviction. Judgment upholding petitioner’s conviction was affirmed.

Question

Did the Supreme Court of Tennessee deny a defendant due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it retroactively applied a decision to abolish the state’s common law year-and-a-day rule?

CONCLUSION

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court held that the Tennessee Supreme Court’s retroactive application to a defendant of its decision abolishing the year-and-a-day rule did not deny Rogers due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Tennessee court’s abolition of the year and a day rule was not unexpected and indefensible, wrote Justice O’Connor. Far from a marked and unpredictable departure from prior precedent, the court’s decision was a routine exercise of common law decisionmaking in which the court brought the law into conformity with reason and common sense, continued O’Connor. Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer wrote separate dissents. Justices Clarence Thomas, Stevens and Breyer joined Justice Scalia’s dissent.

Case Information

  • Citation: 532 US 451 (2001)
  • Argued: Nov 1, 2000
  • Decided May 14, 2001