JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court is giving Richard Chapman a chance to argue he deserves a new trial.
The justice on Thursday granted Chapman’s petition to look at his case.
Chapman, now 50, has faced many obstacles in his decades-old quest for a new trial. The destruction — by court order — of biological samples and other evidence could hurt efforts to clear his name. Also, two witnesses that could aid Chapman’s case are dead and there apparently is no trial transcript.
Chapman was 16 in 1981, when he was charged with raping and robbing a woman. He was convicted in Hinds County and sentenced to life in prison in 1982 for rape plus four years for robbery.
Mississippi courts have denied several petitions from Chapman. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a similar petition last October.
In 2005, a Hinds County judge ordered city, county and state officials to search for evidence in Chapman’s case, but that evidence was ordered destroyed by a court order April 19, 1985, according to a notation in document books in the Hinds County Circuit Clerk’s office.
Chapman had listed his mother as an alibi witness during his trial. He said he was with her at a shopping mart when the alleged rape occurred. Records show Chapman’s mother and another individual who could have given him an alibi are deceased.
Chapman did not initially appeal his rape conviction. Years later, he filed numerous motions to get an appeal heard.
The Mississippi courts have found his motions barred by time limitations. Under a 1984 law, individuals convicted before April 17, 1984, had three years from that date to file a post-conviction petition. Chapman was convicted in 1982 and failed to meet the three-year deadline.