Cooper v. Oklahoma, 517 U.S. 348, 11 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

ponderance standard represented a departure from earlier (pre-Constitution) practice.10

Modern English authority confirms our interpretation of these early cases as applying a preponderance standard. Relying on "principles . . . laid down in a number of cases," including Pritchard and King v. Dyson, 7 Car. & P. 305, n. (a), 173 Eng. Rep. 135, n. (a) (1831), the court in Queen v. Podola, 43 Crim. App. 220, 3 All E. R. 418 (1959), ruled:

"If the contention that the accused is insane is put forward by the defence and contested by the prosecution, there is, in our judgment, a burden upon the defence of satisfying the jury of the accused's insanity. In such a case, as in other criminal cases in which the onus of proof rests upon the defence, the onus is discharged if the jury are satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the accused's insanity has been made out." Id., at 235, 3 All E. R., at 429.11

10 Indeed, although in Medina we concluded that it is permissible for a State to require the defendant to shoulder the burden of demonstrating his incompetence, we noted that some 19th-century English authorities placed the burden on the prosecutor once competence was put in issue. Medina v. California, 505 U. S., at 447. See Queen v. Davies, 3 Car. & K. 328, 329, 175 Eng. Rep. 575, 575 (1853) (judge ruled that "[the prosecutor] should begin, and call his witnesses, to show that the prisoner is sane, and capable of pleading"); Ley's Case, 1 Lewin 239, 240, 168 Eng. Rep. 1026 (1828) (" 'If there be a doubt as to the prisoner's sanity . . . you cannot say that he is in a fit state to be put upon his trial' "). See also Halsbury, 10 Laws of England 403 (3d ed. 1955) ("Where a jury is so empanelled [to determine competency], the onus is on the prosecution to prove the sanity of the defendant"). But see Queen v. Podola, 43 Crim. App. 220, 236, 3 All E. R. 418, 430 (1959) (explicitly rejecting the suggestion that the prosecutor must prove the defendant's competence to stand trial). Given the disagreement among English courts concerning which party bore the burden of proof, it is unlikely that in cases in which the burden was placed on the defendant that burden was as weighty as clear and convincing evidence.

11 The Podola court opined that the tests laid down in Pritchard "have been followed so often that they may be said to be firmly embodied in our law." 43 Crim. App., at 238, 3 All E. R., at 431.

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