Fiore v. White, 531 U.S. 225 (2001)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the third circuit

No. 98-942. Argued October 12, 1999—Question certified November 30, 1999—Decided January 9, 2001

Petitioner Fiore was convicted of violating a Pennsylvania statute prohibiting the operation of a hazardous waste facility without a permit, although the Commonwealth conceded that he in fact had a permit. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined review, but later reversed the conviction of his co-defendant, Scarpone, who had been convicted of the same crime at the same time. After the Pennsylvania courts denied him collateral relief, Fiore brought a federal habeas action. The District Court granted the writ, but the Third Circuit reversed, believing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in Scarpone's case, had announced a new rule of law, inapplicable to Fiore's already final conviction. This Court granted certiorari to determine whether Fiore's conviction was inconsistent with the Due Process Clause, and certified to the Pennsylvania court the question whether its decision interpreting the statute not to apply to conduct like Fiore's was a new interpretation or a correct statement of the law when his conviction became final, 528 U. S. 23, 29. The latter court responded that the statute's interpretation set out in Commonwealth v. Scarpone, 535 Pa. 273, 639 A. 2d 1109, merely clarified the statute and was the law—as properly interpreted— at the time of Fiore's conviction.

Held: Fiore's conviction fails to satisfy due process. Because Scarpone was not new law, this case presents no retroactivity issue. Rather, the question is simply whether Pennsylvania can convict Fiore for conduct that its criminal statute, as properly interpreted, does not prohibit. The Due Process Clause forbids a State to convict a person of a crime without proving the crime's elements beyond a reasonable doubt. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307, 316. Here, failure to possess a permit is a basic element of the crime of which Fiore was convicted, and the parties agree that the Commonwealth presented no evidence to prove that element.

149 F. 3d 221, reversed and remanded.

After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's response to the certified question, supplemental briefs were filed by James Brandon Lieber and Harold Gondelman, for petitioner, and


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