Death Row Inmate Won't Die Over Mail Glitch
Supreme Court gives him a rare second chance to appeal
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2012 7:05 PM CST
Cory S. Maples will get a chance to argue that he doesn't deserve the death sentence.   (Alabama Department of Corrections)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court is making a rare exception that could save the life of a death row inmate in Alabama, reports the Los Angeles Times. The court decreed that Cory Maples deserves a new hearing even though he missed the filing deadline—because his lawyers sort of forgot about him. The weird chain of events began when Maples got convicted of murdering two people in 1997. Two lawyers from the big-name New York firm of Sullivan & Cromwell volunteered to work on his appeal. (They say he had lousy attorneys who failed to tell the jury that Maples was drunk at the time of the shootings.)

The pair filed an initial appeal but left their firm as the case was proceeding through the Alabama court system. Letters to them at Sullivan & Cromwell notifying them of a looming appeal deadline got returned to sender, and the deadline came and went. By the time Maples figured out what happened, state courts said he was out of luck. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote today that he was the victim of "extraordinary circumstances quite beyond his control" in the majority opinion. He remains on death row, but now he's got a chance to appeal.