Estelle v. Dorrough,
420 U.S. 534 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Estelle v. Dorrough, 420 U.S. 534 (1975)

Estelle v. Dorrough

No. 74-479

Decided March 17, 1975

420 U.S. 534


A Texas statute provides for the automatic dismissal of an appeal by a felony defendant if he escapes from custody pending the appeal, except that the appeal will be reinstated if he voluntarily surrenders within 10 days of his escape, or, if he is under sentence of life imprisonment or death, the appellate court, in its discretion, may reinstate the appeal if he returns to custody within 30 days of his escape.

Held: The statute does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(a) It is not rendered unconstitutional by its separate treatment of prisoners under sentence of life imprisonment or death. Texas can reasonably balance its concern with deterring escapes and encouraging surrenders with its alternative interest in allowing the validity of particularly severe sentences to be tested by appellate review.

(b) Nor is the statute rendered unconstitutional by its limiting the appeal-dismissal requirement to those prisoners with appeals pending at the time of their escape. Texas, as part of its policy to deter escapes, is free to impose more severe sanctions on those prisoners whose escape is reasonably calculated to disrupt the very appellate process that they themselves have set in motion, than it does on those who first escape, return, and then invoke the appellate process.

Certiorari granted; 497 F.2d 1007, reversed.

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