In 1995, Cory Maples shot and killed two friends in an Alabama bar after a night of drinking and doing drugs. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Maples wanted to appeal the death sentence because his attorneys failed to argue that he was impaired at the time of the murders so as to avoid the death penalty. His initial appeal was denied and the court clerk sent his attorneys notice that under local court rules that they had 42 days to file an appeal. The two young attorneys that were handling his appeal had left the law firm and the notice was returned to the Clerk of the Court marked "Return to Sender - Left Firm." The 42 day deadline to file the appeal expired and Alabama prosecutors took a hard line and fought Maples' efforts to pursue his appeal claiming that the time to file an appeal had expired and his case was over. The United States Court of Appeals in Alabama agreed and barred Maples from pursuing his appeal. Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court took up Maples appeal. The issue is whether a defendant sentenced to death can pursue his appeal even though he missed court filing deadlines?
According to published reports, during oral arguments, the majority of judges seemed sympathetic to Maples. Only one justice, Antonin Scalia, seemed to be siding with the prosecutors. Scalia seemed to believe that since Maples had a local lawyer, he had ample opportunity to be informed of his appellate rights. But the Chief Justice pointed out that the local lawyer did nothing on the case and only seemed to have his name on the case. Even Samuel Alito, another very conservative justice, seemed to indicate that Alabama prosecutors were wrong to oppose Maples' attempts to pursue his appeal.
The case is Maples v. Thomas, 10-63.
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