SMITH v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
11-8976
Petitioner 
Calvin Smith, et al.
Respondent 
United States
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioners)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Calvin Smith and John Raynor, along with four others, were tried together and convicted on multiple charges including drug conspiracy and RICO act violations. The defendants filed motions for a new trial on various grounds, including that the leaders of the conspiracy, Rodney Moore and Kevin Gray, split up before the relevant statute of limitations period. Because of this, the jury did not have sufficient evidence to prove that all defendants were part of a single conspiracy. The defendants argued that the government had the burden to prove that the conspiracy continued into the valid statute of limitations period. The court denied the motions. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed.

Question 

Does withdrawing from a conspiracy prior to the statute of limitations period put the burden of persuasion on the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was a member of the conspiracy during the relevant period?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Fifth Amendment

No. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion for the unanimous court. The Court held that the defendant has the burden of proving withdrawal from a conspiracy regardless of when the withdrawal took place. Placing the burden on the defense does not violate the Due Process Clause because a defense of withdrawal does not negate an element of the crime of conspiracy. Instead, it assumes that the crime has occurred and starts the clock on the statute of limitations period for the prosecution. The Court held that a defense of withdrawal is considered an affirmative defense that places the burden of proof on the defendant. The Court also held that placing the burden on the prosecution to prove the withdrawal never happened would be a nearly impossible task, as witnesses would invoke the Fifth Amendment rather than discuss their criminal associations with the defendant.

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SMITH v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 08 April 2014. <http://holmes.oyez.org/node/81236>.
SMITH v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://holmes.oyez.org/node/81236 (last visited April 8, 2014).
"SMITH v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 8, 2014, http://holmes.oyez.org/node/81236.