Supreme Court Rules on Law Practice Mistake in Death Penalty Case

/ 18.Jan, 2012

In October, we wrote about the case of Corey R. Maples which was being argued in front of the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court’s opinion was published today.  The Court has ruled in favor of Mr. Maples in a decision authored by Justice Ginsburg.  By a 7-2 vote, the court ruled that the lack of action by Mr. Maples’ attorneys was sufficient reason to give Mr. Maples a second chance.  As Justice Ginsburg wrote:

Abandoned by counsel, Maples was left unrepresented at a critical time for his state postconviction petition, and he lacked a clue of any need to protect himself  pro se.  In these circumstances, no just system would lay the default at Maples’ death-cell door.

Justice Ginsburg continued:

We agree that, under agency principles, a client cannot be charged with the acts or omissions of an attorney who has abandoned him. Nor can a client be faulted for failing to act on his own behalf when he lacks reason to believe his attorneys of record, in fact, are not representing him.

Justice Ginsburg’s opinion contains a lengthy critique of the Alabama capital justice system.  Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion expressing his opinion that the cause of the problem was not Alabama’s system, but the case represents a “perfect storm” of misfortune.  Justices Scalia and Thomas filed a dissent.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire