Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Common-Law “Year And A Day” Rule

In an opinion released on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the common-law “year and a day” rule in homicide cases. ¬†Under that rule, it was a prerequisite for a murder conviction that the victim die within a year and a day.

Interestingly, even though this rule dates back to the 13th Century, the court pointed out that no Minnesota case “has adopted, applied, or even acknowledged the existence” of the rule in the state.

The Supreme Court held that even assuming that such a rule existed, it was repealed by the adoption of the state’s criminal code in 1963. The language of the modern statute is unambiguously at odds with the rule.

The ruling was made in upholding the conviction of Thomas Lee Fairbanks for the 2009 murder of Mahnomen County Deputy Sheriff Christopher Lee Dewey. A more complete summary of the case, and links to other materials regarding the common-law rule, are available on my website.

 



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