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Name: Rodgers v. Tennessee
Case #: 99-6218
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 05/14/2001
Subsequent History: None

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s retroactive application to petitioner of its decision abolishing the requirement that death occur within a year and a day for the crime of murder did not deny petitioner due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Here the victim died 15 months after being stabbed by the defendant. Bouie v. City of Columbia (1964) 378 U.S. 347 held that due process prohibits retroactive application of any judicial construction of a criminal statute which is unexpected and indefensible by reference to the law which had been expressed prior to the conduct at issue. Medical and other scientific advances have rendered the rule obsolete. The vast majority of other states had abolished the rule. It was not a part of the Tennessee criminal code, and although the rule was part of the state common law, it had never once served as the ground for decision in any case. Thus, the abolition of the rule could not be said to be unexpected and indefensible. (5-4)