“The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment denies States the power to deprive the accused of liberty unless the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the charged offense.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). Jury instructions relieving States of this burden violate a defendant’s XIV Amendment due process rights. See Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307 (1985); Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510 (1979). Such directions subvert the presumption of innocence accorded to accused persons and also invade the truth-finding task assigned solely to juries in criminal cases.” Carella v. California (1989) 491 U.S. 263, 265. Jury instructions which tell a jury that an element has been met already fall under a category of Due Process violations. Thus, the verdicts are infirm as to all the counts of 261(a)(3) involving the victim. Since those counts led to the imposition of a sentence of years in prison, the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. These words have as their central promise an assurance that all levels of American government must operate within the law (“legality”) and provide fair procedures. Most of this essay concerns that promise. We should briefly note, however, three other uses these words have had in American constitutional law.
no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
The Fifth Amendment’s reference to “due process” is only one of many promises of protection the Bill of Rights gives citizens against the federal government. Originally these promises had no application at all against the states. Did the Fourteenth Amendment change that? In the middle of the Twentieth Century, about a century after its adoption, a series of Supreme Court decisions found that the Due Process Clause “incorporated” most of the important elements of the Bill of Rights and made them applicable to the states. These decisions almost obliterated any difference between the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment. If a Bill of Rights guarantee is “incorporated” in the “due process” requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment, state and federal obligations are exactly the same. The right to a jury trial, to take just one example, means the same in state and federal courts; there are no differences about the number of jurors required, whether they have to be unanimous in their verdicts, and so forth.
Read more of this article on due process here.