A lawyer for John Joseph Merzbacher, a former Catholic school teacher imprisoned for raping a student decades ago, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case after a federal appeals court rejected an earlier argument that he should be set free.
In a 21-page petition, Merzbacher's attorney H. Mark Stichel asks the high court to resolve several legal questions, including whether a defendant's claim that he would have taken a plea deal if offered, even while proclaiming his innocence, demonstrates a "reasonable probability" that he would have followed through.
Merzbacher, who taught at the Catholic Community Middle School in South Baltimore in the 1970s, alleges that his attorneys failed to offer him a 10-year plea deal before his case went to trial in the 1990s. If given the chance, he said he would have taken the deal. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the claim was "not credible" earlier this year.
Merzbacher was sentenced to four life terms at trial.