- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi inmate’s efforts to find a court - any court - to hear his appeal for a new trial are nearing an end.

The obstacles have been many for Richard Chapman.

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 on the rape charge plus four years on the robbery count.

Mississippi courts have denied several petitions from Chapman - the most recent was in September.

Chapman, now 50, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up his appeal. Members of the court met Friday to decide if they will hear the case. Court officials said a decision could be announced as early as next week.

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.

In papers filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Chapman argues the destruction of evidence violated his due-process rights, the Mississippi courts erred in finding his motions were time-barred and his lawyer didn’t do a good job.

The Mississippi attorney general’s office waived its right to file a brief opposing Chapman’s motion, according to court records.

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