JACKSON V. VIRGINIA, 443 U. S. 307 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979)

Jackson v. Virginia

No. 78-5283

Argued March 21, 1979

Decided June 28, 1979

443 U.S. 307


Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder after a bench trial in a Virginia court, and his motion and petition in the state courts to set aside the conviction on the ground that there was insufficient evidence of premeditation, a necessary element of first-degree murder, were denied. He then brought a habeas corpus proceeding in Federal District Court, which, applying the "no evidence" criterion of Thompson v. Louisville, 362 U. S. 199, found the record devoid of evidence of premeditation and granted the writ. Applying the same criterion, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was some evidence that petitioner had intended to kill the victim.


1. A federal habeas corpus court must consider not whether there was any evidence to support a state court conviction, but whether there was sufficient evidence to justify a rational trier of fact to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In re Winship, 397 U. S. 358. Pp. 443 U. S. 313-324.

(a) In re Winship presupposes, as an essential of the due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, that no person shall be made to suffer the onus of a criminal conviction except upon sufficient proof -- defined as evidence necessary to convince a trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of every element of the offense. Pp. 443 U. S. 313-316.

(b) After In re Winship, the critical inquiry on review of the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction must be not simply to determine whether the jury was properly instructed on reasonable doubt, but to determine whether the record evidence could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The Thompson "no evidence" rule is simply inadequate to protect against misapplications of the constitutional standard of reasonable doubt. Pp. 443 U. S. 316-320.

(c) In a challenge to a state conviction brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which requires a federal court to entertain a state prisoner's claim that he is being held in "custody in violation of the Constitution

Page 443 U. S. 308

or laws or treaties of the United States," the applicant is entitled to habeas corpus relief if it is found that, upon the evidence adduced at the trial, no rational trier of fact could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Pp. 443 U. S. 320-324.

2. A review of the record in this case in the light most favorable to the prosecution shows that a rational factfinder could have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of first-degree murder under Virginia Law. Pp. 443 U. S. 324-326.

580 F.2d 1048, affirmed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J.,and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post p 443 U. S. 326. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 443 U. S. 309

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