By Jonathan Stempel and Terry Baynes
WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed
on Monday to consider whether a state prisoner who claims he is
innocent but waits several years to press his case is excused
from the usual deadline to seek relief in federal courts.
Michigan was challenging the reversal of the 1997 murder
conviction of Floyd Perkins for stabbing a man after a Flint,
Michigan, house party four years earlier.
Perkins obtained affidavits in 1997, 1999 and 2002 that he
said supported his innocence, but waited until June 2008 to ask
a federal judge to overturn his conviction, nearly six years
after the last affidavit was signed.
Michigan said the deadline for seeking such relief after
obtaining "new evidence" was one year, unless a prisoner shows
he sought relief diligently and that an extraordinary
circumstance stood in his way to file sooner, neither of which
occurred in Perkins' case.
A federal district judge agreed, but in March the 6th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the Supreme Court's "rich
jurisprudence protecting the rights of the wrongfully
incarcerated," said reasonable diligence was not a prerequisite
to pursuing an actual innocence claim.
In its appeal, Michigan said seven federal appeals courts
had addressed whether an actual innocence claim excuses an
untimely filing - three courts saying it does not and four,
including the 6th Circuit, saying it does. Michigan said the
latter view was inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent.
Perkins' lawyer, Chad Readler of Jones Day, disagreed. "The
clear trend in the federal courts is to allow an inmate his or
her day in court," he said.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
The case is McQuiggin v. Perkins, U.S. Supreme Court, No.
For McQuiggin, Warden: Michigan Solicitor General John
For Perkins: Chad Readler of Jones Day.
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