ROGERS v. TENNESSEE

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
99-6218
Petitioner 
Rogers
Respondent 
Tennessee
Advocates
(Nashville, Tennessee, argued the cause for the respondent)
(Memphis, Tennessee, argued the cause for the petitioner)
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Facts of the Case 

Wilbert K. Rogers was convicted in Tennessee of second degree murder. The victim, James Bowdery, died 15 months after Rogers stabbed him. On appeal, Rogers argued that the Tennessee common law "year and a day rule," under which no defendant could be convicted of murder unless his victim died by the defendant's act within a year and a day of the act, persisted and precluded his conviction. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction. In affirming, the Tennessee Supreme Court ultimately abolished the rule and upheld Rogers' conviction. The court rejected Rogers' contention that abolishing the rule would violate the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the Tennessee and Federal Constitutions. The court reasoned that those provisions referred only to legislative acts. Additionally, the court concluded its decision would not offend due process.

Question 

Did the Supreme Court of Tennessee deny a defendant due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when it retroactively applied a decision to abolish the state's common law "year-and-a-day rule?"

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Tennessee, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court held that the Tennessee Supreme Court's retroactive application to a defendant of its decision abolishing the year-and-a-day rule did not deny Rogers due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. "The Tennessee court's abolition of the year and a day rule was not unexpected and indefensible," wrote Justice O'Connor. "Far from a marked and unpredictable departure from prior precedent, the court's decision was a routine exercise of common law decisionmaking in which the court brought the law into conformity with reason and common sense," continued O'Connor. Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer wrote separate dissents. Justices Clarence Thomas, Stevens and Breyer joined Justice Scalia's dissent.

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ROGERS v. TENNESSEE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 09 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_99_6218>.
ROGERS v. TENNESSEE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_99_6218 (last visited April 9, 2014).
"ROGERS v. TENNESSEE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 9, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_99_6218.