The U.S. Supreme Court gave Alabama death row inmate, Corey Maples, a new chance to appeal his death sentence conviction, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Maples had been "abandoned" by his two New York lawyers who left their law firm without telling him and missed the deadline for filing his appeal. "In these circumstances, no just system would lay the default at Maples' death-cell door," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a 7-2 majority.
Maples was drunk and on drugs when he shot and killed two friends in 1997. A jury voted 10 to 2 to sentence him to death. Afterward, Maples contended that he would have gotten life in prison, not death, if his inexperienced trial lawyers had argued he was thoroughly intoxicated on the night of the murders, reported the Times.
He may have thought he had a lucky break when two young lawyers from the prestigious New York firm of Sullivan & Cromwell agreed to represent him. They enlisted a local lawyer in Alabama to help and filed an initial appeal in 2002.
According to the Times, about 18 months later, a state judge denied the appeal. But by then, the two New York lawyers — Jaasi Munanka and Clara Ingen-Housz — had left the firm for other jobs without telling Maples, the judge or the local lawyer. Copies of the judge's order came back marked, "Return to Sender."
An Alabama court clerk took no action when the letters were returned. After 42 days, the deadline to appeal this order expired. Alabama prosecutors told Maples the door to filing further appeals had closed forever.
The Alabama courts, a federal judge and a U.S. court of appeals all ruled against Maples, citing his "procedural default" at the initial stage.
The Supreme Court ruled for Maples, citing "the extraordinary circumstances quite beyond his control." In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said that a "veritable perfect storm of misfortune, a most unlikely combination of events," had come together to unfairly deprive Maples of a chance to appeal, reported the Times.
To read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-court-abandoned-client-20120119,0,1287719.story