At the conclusion of its last term, the Supreme Court rendered what should have been a most unremarkable decision. In Patterson v. New York, the Court upheld New York's affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance, which requires a defendant who seeks to reduce his offense from murder to manslaughter to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he acted under extreme emotional disturbance. Had the case come before the Court seven years earlier, it could have been swiftly dispatched with a brief opinion upholding the New York statute on the grounds that the issue of extreme emotional disturbance does not arise until the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt the "essential elements" of the crime intent and causation--and that "extreme emotional disturbance" is but a slightly modified version of the defense of provocation, for which many states had long placed the burden of proof upon the defendant.
Ronald J. Allen,
The Restoration of In re Winship: A Comment on Burdens of Persuasion in Criminal Cases After Patterson v. New York,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol76/iss1/3