Oral argument: Nov. 2, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Sept. 3, 2008)
HABEAS CORPUS, ADEQUATE STATE GROUNDS DOCTRINE, FUGITIVE, DISCRETIONARY REVIEW
Joseph Kindler was convicted and sentenced to death by a Pennsylvania court for murder. While Kindler’s post-conviction motions were pending, he escaped and remained at large for years. The court then decided on the basis of a discretionally applied fugitive forfeiture rule that Kindler had waived his rights to make these motions when he fled. After Kindler was returned, he moved to reinstate his motions. The Pennsylvania courts denied this motion and Kindler subsequently petitioned the federal court for habeas review, which the district court granted and the circuit court affirmed. In this case the Supreme Court will decide if a federal court may grant a habeas petition when Pennsylvania’s highest court declared that Kindler forfeited his relief claims when he fled. Pennsylvania argues that its fugitive forfeiture rule is an adequate state ground that bars federal review. Kindler, however, claims the discretionally applied fugitive forfeiture rule was not applied with sufficient consistency in Pennsylvania courts to preclude habeas review.