Sunday, October 19, 2008

Unlucky Strike

United States v. Matthews, No. 07-0699-cr (Wesley, Hall, Gibson, CJJ) (per curiam)

Matthews challenged his life sentence under the federal “three-strikes” statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c), on several grounds. The circuit affirmed.

One “three-strikes” provision requires the defendant to establish that his prior convictions were not “serious violent felonies,” as defined by the statute. The court joined eight other circuits in upholding the constitutionality of this allocation. “Where no fundamental right is at issue, there is no doubt that the legislature may assign to defendants burdens of proof with regard to affirmative defenses.”

Matthews also argued that the burden itself - of producing clear and convincing evidence - violates due process. The court noted that four circuits had found that this standard did not violate due process, but did not resolve the issue here. Matthews could not show, even by a preponderance of the evidence, that his past convictions were not serious violent felonies.



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