Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Supreme Court rules in favor of Alabama death row inmate

The Supreme Court Wednesday ordered a new hearing for an Alabama death-row inmate who missed a critical appeals deadline because his lawyers at a prestigious New York law firm ceased to represent him without telling him or court officials.

The circumstances surrounding the appeals of Cory R. Maples--which included a mailroom mix-up at the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell that returned unopened an adverse ruling against Maples--created a “veritable perfect storm of misfortune,” according to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Such extraordinary events, the court ruled 7 to 2, meant Maples deserved another hearing.

“No just system would lay the default at Maples’ death-cell door,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority.

The court went to some length to explain that it was not adjusting its previous decisions that in most post-conviction appeals, the mistakes of lawyers must be attributed to their clients and cannot be grounds for a new hearing.

“A markedly different situation is presented, however, when an attorney abandons his client without notice, and thereby occasions the default,” Ginsburg wrote.

Maples was convicted of shooting two acquaintances in the head in 1995. He stole money and a car, and he confessed when captured two weeks later. He is not contesting his guilt.
Read the rest here.

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