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Court rules against death row inmate

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A death row inmate who wants his cancer to kill him before the state can execute him lost an appeal Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he missed a deadline for challenging one of his convictions.

The decision that went against Daniel Lee Siebert is not expected to result in any immediate execution date for the killing of a Talladega woman in 1986. Siebert earlier had an Oct. 25 execution date blocked by a federal appeals court in a separate capital murder case for killing a woman and her two young sons.

Siebert, 53, has terminal pancreatic cancer and has been fighting in court to die naturally rather than from lethal injection.

Esther Brown, executive secretary of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Siebert has declined treatment, other than pain medication, and is terminal.

"He's a very sick man, but I can't spell it out in days or months," she said.

In the case the Supreme Court justices decided Monday, Alabama courts had ruled that Siebert missed a deadline for challenging his conviction at the state level in the killing of Linda Ann Jarman. Alabama officials argued the missed deadline barred Siebert from filing a petition in federal court as well.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, sided with Siebert on the issue, and the state appealed to the nation's highest court.

In the unsigned decision, the Supreme Court justices ruled that because Siebert missed the state deadline "he was not entitled" to file in the federal courts either.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said it was a significant ruling for Alabama, which had drawn support in the case from 19 other states.

Siebert, however, has other court action he can take in the Jarman case and the state won't immediately seek an execution date. "The process could go on for months or years," Crenshaw said.

Siebert's attorney was out of the office Monday and did not immediately return a telephone message.

In some states, courts have no jurisdiction to consider petitions like Siebert's that are filed late. But courts in Alabama and 16 other states have discretion to hear cases filed past the deadline. The laws in eight other states do not specify whether missing the deadline is an absolute bar to going to court.

In Stevens' dissent, which Ginsburg joined, the justice said there is "an obvious distinction" between the types of time limits and that missing the Alabama state deadline should not bar a filing in the federal court system.

In the other case against Siebert, he was convicted in the strangulation deaths of Jarman's next-door neighbor, Sherri Weathers, and Weathers' two young sons on Feb. 19, 1986, the same night Jarman was killed. Weathers was a student at the Alabama School for the Deaf in Talladega and had been dating Siebert.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Siebert should not be executed by lethal injection until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a Kentucky case in which that method of execution is under challenge.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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