The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] will determine whether an appeal of a capital murder conviction can continue despite the prisoner's lawyers failing to meet a paperwork deadline, in one of two cases in which the court granted certiorari [order list, PDF] Monday. In Maples v. Allen [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will review a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that held [opinion, PDF] the state of Alabama may execute Cory Maples without federal habeas review of his constitutional claims due to a missed appeal deadline that was no fault of the prisoner's. The Alabama trial court had dismissed Maples' petition for post-conviction relief and sent notice of this ruling to the prisoner's attorneys, but the notice was returned to the court unopened and stamped returned to sender because the attorneys had left that firm. The court did nothing with this, and the deadline to appeal the ruling passed. Maples was convicted of capital murder for killing two people after a night of drinking. He had argued his counsel was ineffective because it failed to present evidence of his intoxication and his drug history, which he believed would have mitigated his sentence. He also argued the trial court failed to give proper jury instructions by not including the lesser offense of manslaughter by voluntary intoxication under Alabama law.
In Rehberg v. Paulk [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will examine a circuit court split over whether government officials who act as "complaining witnesses" to initiate a prosecution by providing false testimony are are immune to civil suits. The petitioner Charles Rehberg is asking the court to clarify the application of two conflicting Supreme Court precedents in Briscoe v. Lahue and Malley v. Briggs [opinions]. In Briscoe, the court held that a police officer who allegedly committed perjury was immune from civil liability. However, in Malley, the court allowed a suit against a police officer for wrongfully causing an arrest warrant to be issued, reasoning that the officer was acting as a "complaining witness." The circuit courts are split over which precedent to apply when a government official provides testimony as a complaining witness. Rehberg argues that Dougherty County District Attorney's office in Georgia falsely accused him of various crimes after he publicized unethical billing practices of a local hospital to which the district attorney allegedly had political connections.