Wisconsin Congressman Tiffany Wants ‘Year-and-a-Day’ Homicide Rule Gone

U.S. Representative Tom Tiffany (R-WI-07) is spearheading an effort in Congress to end the “year-and-a-day” rule for federal homicide prosecutions.

Tiffany’s “Justice for Murder Victims Act” would allow murder charges to apply if an attacker committed an assault that resulted in the victim’s death more than a year and a day after the incident. Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA-04) is cosponsoring the legislation, while Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) have introduced a companion bill in their chamber. 

Tiffany explained that medical advances sometimes mean victims can survive their attacks for longer periods, making the year-and-a-day mark a poor, outdated threshold to absolve assailants of homicide.

“Archaic rules that allow murderers to evade punishment due to the power of modern medicine serve as a disgrace to murder victims and their loved ones,” Tiffany said in a statement. “Justice for a murder victim should not be negatively determined by an arbitrary period of time, and this bipartisan proposal will hold murderers accountable while bringing justice to victims.”

The year-and-a-day rule originated in English common law, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its application in the 1891 case Ball v. United States. The concept gradually fell out of favor in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. 

Courts in the District of Columbia, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all rejected the rule in recent decades. In 1997, California lawmakers adopted a “three-years-and-a-day” provision, stating that “there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the killing was not criminal” if death transpires more than three years and one day after an attack. 

The change Tiffany and his colleagues are seeking would stipulate there is no maximum timespan between assault and death that would preclude a murder prosecution. Bill sponsors tout the support of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Murder Accountability Project, the National Organization of Victim Assistance and the Iowa County Attorneys Association. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Wisconsin Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tom Tiffany” by U.S. House of Representatives. Background Photo “Crime Scene” by cottonbro studio.



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