Brief filed: 08/27/2012
Smith v. United States
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 11-8976
A defendant’s withdrawal from a conspiracy during the statute of limitations period negates and element of a conspiracy charge such that, once a defendant meets his burden of production that he did withdraw, the burden of proof rests with the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a member of the conspiracy during the relevant period. The requirement that the prosecution prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a defendant’s foremost safeguard against a wrongful conviction. The defendant’s withdrawal defense negated the “participation” element of the conspiracy, and relieving prosecutors of their burden to prove a defendant’s mental state substantially undermines the fairness of the trial by diluting one of the most important protections against wrongful convictions.
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Timothy P. O’Toole and Jeffrey Hahn, Miller & Chevalier, Chartered, Washington, DC.