A federal appellate court recently focused attention on a rare method of obtaining review by the U.S. Supreme Court when it certified a question to the justices in the high-profile prosecution (pdf) of James Ford Seale for the 1964 kidnapping-murder of two black teenagers.

The question that troubled the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Although Seale committed the crime in 1964, he was not prosecuted until 2007. Did the law require the prosecution for kidnapping within five years of the crime, or is there no time limit? A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled last September that because of changes in the law in 1972, the clock ran out on the government’s prosecution of Seale.

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