Sandstrom v. Montana
United States Supreme Court
442 U.S. 510 (1979)
David Sandstrom (defendant) was tried for the “deliberate homicide” of Annie Jessen. An element of the offense required that Sandstrom acted “purposely or knowingly.” Sandstrom, who had confessed to killing Jessen, did not deny the killing but asserted that he was guilty of a lesser offense than deliberate homicide because he did not act “purposely or knowingly” since he suffered from a personality disorder that had been aggravated by alcohol consumption. At trial, the government asked the court to instruct the jury that “the law presumes that a person intends the ordinary consequences of his voluntary acts.” The court agreed to give the instruction over defense counsel’s objection. Sandstrom was convicted of deliberate homicide and appealed his conviction to the Montana Supreme Court. The Montana Supreme Court held that the jury instruction shifted some of the burden to Sandstrom, but affirmed the conviction on the ground that “allocation of some burden of proof to a defendant under certain circumstances” was appropriate. Sandstrom appealed to the United States Supreme Court. On appeal, the government asserted that the jury instruction did not violate Due Process because it was a permissive presumption, or alternatively, it merely shifted the burden of production to Sandstrom to present some evidence that he did not act “purposely or knowingly,” but did not shift the burden of persuasion and therefore did not violate Due Process.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)
Concurrence (Rehnquist, C.J.)
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