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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Supreme Court to Tackle Habeas Filing Delay

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would decide if an inmate's claim of actual innocence trumps deadlines for challenging a conviction based on new evidence.

The court's decision to hear the case of Perkins v. McQuiggin will resolve conflicts among the lower courts on how and when to apply the doctrine of equitable tolling when an inmate claims he's innocent.

Equitable tolling eases the statute of limitations for plaintiffs who, despite reasonable care and diligent efforts, did not or could not discover the injury within the legal deadline to take action.

In Perkins, convicted murderer Floyd Perkins wait until 2008 to challenge his 1997 conviction. He based his habeas petition on new evidence that allegedly proved his innocence, including three affidavits that purportedly corroborated his defense.

However, Perkins filed his petition six years after obtaining the last affidavit - almost five years beyond the one-year deadline established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

The 6th Circuit ruled in March that Perkins' credible claim of innocence gave him leeway in filing such a late petition. It held that Perkins' "gateway actual innocence claim" allowed him to present his habeas petition "as if he had not filed it late."

The court also ruled that Perkins need not prove that he exercised diligence or was prevented from filing earlier due to an "extraordinary circumstance" to invoke equitable tolling.

In April, the 6th Circuit rejected a petition to rehear the case before a full panel of judges.

Warden Greg McQuiggin argued that this decision placed the 6th Circuit at odds with not only some of its sister circuits, but also with its own ruling in Souter v. Jones. He said the high court should take up the case to resolve this "deep and mature circuit conflict."

According to the 6th Circuit, the Supreme Court "has never required reasonable diligence to be shown when seeking equitable tolling due to actual innocence."

The high court on Monday granted certiorari without comment.

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