The state miscalculated and said Patrick Day, who was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison, had filed his final post-conviction appeal within 353 days of it being upheld in December 1999, the high court said.
However, a federal trial judge recalculated the time and found the appeal was filed 388 days after the final state ruling -- too late for the one-year limit on such appeals imposed by the 1996 Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
"In appropriate circumstances, a district court may raise a time bar on its own initiative," the majority ruled. "The district court in this case confronted no intelligent waiver on the state's part, only an evident miscalculation of time."
The majority opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, upheld a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.