The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that Albert Holland, a man convicted of killing a Pompano Beach police officer, could have his death sentence reviewed even though his lawyer missed the one-year filing deadline.

In a 7-2 ruling, the court held that Holland’s court-appointed lawyer, Bradley Collins, “seriously prejudiced” his client by not responding to messages and failing to challenge his sentence on time.

In an editorial today, The New York Times explains that the case is a victory for “human empathy” over rigid rules:

In giving Mr. Holland a second chance to make his case, the Supreme Court acted in the highest legal tradition and demonstrated why society invests so much hope in the wisdom of justices — and not just their knowledge of legal principles. Writing for the court’s majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that a hard and fast adherence to absolute legal rules could impose “the evils of archaic rigidity.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were the two dissenters.

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