498 U.S. 39 (1990), 89-7302, Cage v. Louisiana

Docket Nº:No. 89-7302
Citation:498 U.S. 39, 111 S.Ct. 328, 112 L.Ed.2d 339
Party Name:Cage v. Louisiana
Case Date:November 13, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 39

498 U.S. 39 (1990)

111 S.Ct. 328, 112 L.Ed.2d 339

Cage

v.

Louisiana

No. 89-7302

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 13, 1990

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME

COURT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.

In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364. Petitioner Cage was convicted in Louisiana of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. In his trial's guilt phase, the jury was instructed that guilt must be found beyond a reasonable doubt, that reasonable doubt was "such doubt as would give rise to a grave uncertainty" and "an actual substantial doubt," and that what was required was a "moral certainty." In affirming Cage's conviction, the State Supreme Court rejected his argument that, inter alia, the instruction violated the Due Process Clause, and concluded that, "taking the charge as a whole," reasonable persons would understand the reasonable doubt definition.

Held: The instruction was contrary to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement articulated in Winship. The words "substantial" and "grave" suggest a higher degree of doubt than is required for acquittal under the reasonable doubt standard. When those statements are then considered with the reference to "moral," rather than evidentiary, certainty, a reasonable juror, taking the charge as a whole, could have interpreted the instruction to allow a finding of guilt based on a degree of proof below that required by the Due Process Clause.

Certiorari granted; 554 So.2d 39, reversed and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for a writ of certiorari are granted.

In state criminal trials, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.

In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970); see also Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 315-316 (1979). This reasonable doubt standard "plays a vital role in the American

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scheme of criminal procedure." Winship, 397 U.S. at 363. Among other things, "[i]t is a prime instrument for reducing the risk of convictions resting on factual error." Ibid. The issue before us is whether the reasonable doubt instruction in this case complied with Winship.

Petitioner was convicted in a Louisiana trial court of first-degree murder, and was sentenced to death. He appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, arguing, inter alia, that the reasonable...

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