The Supreme Court said Monday a convicted criminal's decision to ask for leniency can be used to delay the deadline inmates have to appeal to the federal courts.
The high court unanimously ruled for Khalil Kholi, who wants to appeal his 1993 conviction for sexual assault against two girls.
In 1996, Kholi's request for a sentence reduction in Rhode Island courts was denied. After his state appeals were finished, he appealed to federal court in 2007. A federal judge threw out his appeal, saying the deadline had passed because the request for sentence reduction cannot be used to ask for an extension.
But a federal appeals court overturned that ruling, saying a leniency request can be used to extend the deadline for a federal appeal. The high court agreed.
Usually, criminals have one year to appeal their state court convictions to federal court. But the 12-month deadline can be waived if there is a "properly filed application for state post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim."
Kholi said his request for a sentence reduction was a "collateral review," something that wasn't a direct appeal of his conviction, a contention that the federal Courts of Appeals have divided on.
Justice Samuel Alito agreed that Kholi's reduction requests were "collateral reviews."
"We thus define 'collateral review' according to its ordinary meaning: It refers to judicial review that occurs in a proceeding outside the direct review process," Alito said.
The case is Wall v. Kholi, 09-868.