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Rogers v. Tennessee

United States Supreme Court
532 U.S. 451 (2001)



At the time of this case, Tennessee followed the common law rule under which a defendant could not be convicted of murder if his victim did not die within a year and a day following the defendant’s act. Rogers (defendant) stabbed Bowdery, who died fifteen months later from complications resulting from the attack. Rogers was subsequently charged by the State of Tennessee (plaintiff) and convicted of second degree murder under a statute that made no reference to the year and a day rule. Rogers appealed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee on the ground that the year and a day rule applied, notwithstanding its omission from the statute, and that his conviction therefore violated the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The Supreme Court of Tennessee found that the rationale for the year and a day rule no longer existed and abolished the rule. The court further held that the Ex Post Facto Clause prohibits only legislative acts and there did not apply to the judiciary. Finally, the court held that retroactive judicial actions are permissible under the Due Process Clause as long as they are not “unexpected and indefensible.” The court concluded that abolition of the year and a day rule was permissible under this standard and affirmed Rogers’ conviction. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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