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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dixon v U.S.: SC Places Burden of Proof on Defendant for Duress Defense

From In Dixon v. U.S., the Supreme Court clamped down on defendants who claim they were coerced into breaking the law. Those defendants, not prosecutors, have the burden of proving in trials that they committed crimes only under duress.

In the 7-2 ruling against a Texas woman who claimed her abusive boyfriend forced her to illegally buy him guns while his accomplices held her children hostage, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion that Dixon's constitutional rights were not violated when jurors were told that she had to prove that she was coerced into breaking the law.

Congress can, if it chooses, enact a duress defense that places the burden on the government to disprove duress beyond a reasonable doubt," Stevens wrote. He also noted that prosecutors did have to show that she acted knowingly and willfully. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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