The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday it was wrong to have taken up the case of Marlon Howell.
Howell wanted a new trial because he claimed Mississippi juries should be able to convict defendants in capital cases of the lesser crimes of murder or manslaughter. Justices heard the case in November 2004.
The court now says Howell failed to raise his claim in the Mississippi Supreme Court. As a result, the high court says it had mistakenly agreed to hear the appeal.
Attorneys for Howell have argued the Union County man deserved a new trial because his trial jury wasn't allowed to consider convicting him of a lesser crime rather than capital murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death.
Capital murder in Mississippi is defined as murder committed along with the commission of another crime; in Howell's case, robbery.
Howell was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to death for killing David Pernell, a retired postman who delivered newspapers, during a robbery in New Albany.