It is normally within the power of the State to regulate procedures under which its laws are carried out, including the burden of producing evidence and the burden of persuasion, and its decision in this regard is not subject to proscription under the Due Process Clause unless it offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of the American people as to be ranked as fundamental.
Defendant was charged with second-degree murder under N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25 (1975) for killing his estranged wife's friend. After defendant was convicted of murder, he appealed the verdict on the basis that the need to prove the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Affirming the appeals court and the trial court, the Court held that there was no violation of defendant's due process rights.
Did the New York law requiring that the defendant in a prosecution for second-degree murder prove by a preponderance of the evidence the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance in order to reduce the crime to manslaughter violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
New York affirmative defense laws did not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since the affirmative defense in question constituted a separate issue on which the defendant was required to carry the burden of persuasion, and did not serve to negative any facts of the crime which the state had the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict. The due process clause does not put a state to the choice of either abandoning affirmative defenses or undertaking to disprove their existence in order to convict for a crime which otherwise was within its constitutional powers to sanction by substantial punishment.