Kindler v. Horn, No. 03-9010 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
The defendant filed motions after his 1983 conviction for killing a witness. Before they were heard he escaped, was captured, escaped again, and was arrested again in 1991. Efforts to reinstate the post-verdict motions were unsuccessful and his conviction was affirmed, based on Pennsylvania's fugitive forfeiture doctrine. The district court and Third Circuit held that the forfeiture rule did not bar federal habeas corpus review. The Supreme Court remanded. The Third Circuit affirmed a conditional grant of habeas corpus and order for resentencing. The procedural rule that mandated dismissal of an appeal based on claims raised in post-verdict motions was a new rule that was not firmly established at the time of the defendant's escape. Pennsylvania's fugitive forfeiture rule mandated that the motions be dismissed, but gave the court discretion to reinstate those motions upon recapture; the "curious mix of obligation and discretion" created confusion. The confusion was compounded when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that review of post-trial motions dismissed under the rule is limited to whether dismissal is reasonable under the circumstances. The defendant was not treated in the same manner as similarly situated individuals would have been treated in Pennsylvania in 1984.