Habeas Bill: Don't Do It
The Washington Post today calls the bill to streamline death penalty appeals, introduced in the Senate by Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and in the House by Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.), "an unmitigated disaster."
Habeas corpus is the centuries-old device by which inmates challenge the legality of their detentions. In modern times it has become the essential vehicle by which convicts on death row or serving lengthy prison terms attack their state-court convictions. Many innocent people owe their freedom to their ability to file habeas petitions.
Yet in many death cases, the most drastic versions of the bill would eliminate federal review entirely. Even where they didn't do that, they would create onerous procedural roadblocks and prevent federal courts from considering key issues. They would bar federal courts from reviewing most capital sentencing and create arbitrary timetables for federal appeals courts to handle these cases.
The Post points out [as I did here]that "chief justices of the nation's state court systems have voted overwhelmingly to urge Congress to slow down."
|< CCR Challenges Collect Call Rates From NY Prisons | John Roberts Argued for National ID Card >|