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Law School Case Brief

Commonwealth v. Casanova - 708 N.E.2d 86 (1999)


The abrogation of the year and a day rule does not make the determination of guilt so inherently unreliable or undeterminable as to deprive defendant of procedural due process.


Defendant was indicted for armed assault with intent to murder when a victim was shot and paralyzed. The victim died six years later from complications resulting from the incident. After the victim’s death, the defendant was indicted for murder. The defendant moved to dismiss, alleging he was deprived of his right to a speedy trial. The trial court denied his motion, but certified a question of whether the year and a day rule should be replaced.


Should the year and a day rule be replaced by a determinate limitation standard?




At common law, a defendant could not be prosecuted for murder unless his victim died within a year and a day of the action inflicting the injury. The court found that a majority of jurisdictions had declined to adopt a new rule. It reasoned that the decision to abrogate the rule was based on the notion that science had advanced so much as to make the common law rule obsolete. Extended time frames between the criminal act and the victim’s death resulted in prosecutors not being able to meet the burden of proof. However, the court reasoned that there had not been a sufficient number of cases where the prosecution was unable to meet its burden, thus it was not yet necessary to adopt a new rule.

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