The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a Nevada murder case that could set limits on what can and can't be appealed to federal court.
The case is Slack v. McDaniel, involving the conviction of a man for second-degree murder in the death of a 12-year-old.
The issue centers on the 1996 Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, a federal law limiting what kinds of procedural issues can be appealed to federal court. That law was designed to reduce meaningless technical appeals designed just to delay a criminal sentence and applies not only to death cases but other criminal convictions as well.
In the Slack case, the appeal was filed before the law took effect. But Slack's lawyers expanded it with several added issues more than a year after the law took effect.
The issues on file before the law took effect must be dealt with legally. But state prosecutors argue those added procedural arguments raised after the new law was approved should be tossed out.
Slack's lawyers, on the other hand, say because the petition and the case itself were already on file, the new law doesn't apply. They say that means the additional claims filed are not legally barred and should be taken up by the court.
Chief Deputy Attorney General David Sarnowski will argue the case for the Nevada Attorney General's Office. Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa said the issue is important because the 1996 federal law and much of her office's efforts over the past few years have been aimed at reducing repeated appeals by inmates.
"It is wasteful of the state's resources to allow prisoners to repeatedly file petitions that are not resolved expeditiously," she said.