A Bad Week in History: Waco, Oklahoma City and Columbine

Today is a bad day for history. It is the anniversary of the tragic deaths of the Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993.

It is also the 12th anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. (Disclosure: I was one of Timothy McVeigh's trial lawyers, so don't bother ranting about him in the comments, it will be deleted.)

Tomorrow, April 20, is the anniversary of the Columbine killings.

One of the lasting legal effects of the OKC bombing was President Bill Clinton's Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Enforcement Act (pdf), which restricted habeas corpus rights and added many new death penalty eligible offenses.

Like I said the other day about why we shouldn't rush to enact gun control laws in the aftermath of Virginia Tech, we should never enact laws as an emotional response to a single tragedy, no matter how horrific. Cooler heads are needed.

< Torturer-Rapist At Large Near Columbia University | Giulani in Oklahoma Today, Leading the OKC Memorial >
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    remediaol education (none / 0) (#1)
    by orionATL on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 08:44:33 PM EST
    sometime, when you have time,

    maybe you could explain what clinton' atadpe act did.

    i've never heard of it.

    but i am especially interested in infringements of habeas corpus since it is so basic,

    Aedpa and Habeas (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 08:48:12 PM EST
    From Wikipedia:

    One provision of the AEDPA, limits the power of federal judges to grant relief unless the state court's adjudication of the claim resulted in a decision that was (1) contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. While critics have charged that this limitation effectively forecloses the power of federal courts to remedy unjust convictions, federal judges have found ways to grant relief to prisoners in habeas cases despite the limitation. After all, some interpretations of federal law can be not merely incorrect but actually unreasonable, thereby allowing federal courts to grant relief under the first prong of AEDPA's limitation.

    Other provisions of the AEDPA created entirely new statutory law. For example, before AEDPA the judicially created abuse of the writ doctrine restricted the presentation of new claims through subsequent habeas petitions. The AEDPA replaced this doctrine with an absolute bar on second or successive petitions. Petitioners who attempted to bring claims in federal habeas proceedings that have already been decided in a previous habeas petition would find those claims barred. Petitioners who had already filed a federal habeas petition were required to first secure authorization from the appropriate federal court of appeals. Furthermore, AEDPA took away from the Supreme Court the power to review a court of appeals's denial of that permission, thus placing final authority for the filing of second petitions in the hands of the federal courts of appeals.

    The one year statute of limitations on habeas claims is very detrimental for those who might be wrongfully convicted. Particularly when DNA comes to light that might clear the inmate. Rarely can it be discovered within one year.

    The restrictions on successive petitions is also bad.

    To anyone opposed to the death penalty, the new death penalty offenses speak for themselves

    how naive could i be (none / 0) (#4)
    by orionATL on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 08:59:21 PM EST
    a once year statute on habeas corpus?

    i thought habeas was a "right" forever, like breathing.

    this reminds me of criminal appeals in virginia - 60 days and you're out -

    a rule made for the convenience of the courts, i assume.

    has this been challenged?

    is this restriction unusual in american law?


    McVeigh? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 08:48:59 PM EST
    Why you . . .


    OK (none / 0) (#5)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 02:22:11 AM EST
    Cooler heads are needed.

    I suggest we find them. Soon. And what's the waiting period? My views were only solidified.

    Who are these cooler heads? Are they the gun makers? The NRA? The Demreps? Who? It looks like Cho's act pivoted heavily on the decision made by a gun store owner and a pawn shop owner. Is that who we want vetting our gun sales? It would seem to me that gun shops should be one of the highest priority entities with access to records that would screen out customers with documented histories of violent behavior, as this kid had. This is just one example of the swiss cheese regulation of firearms in this country. Sometimes the solution is as simple as locking a cockpit door.

    Stupid country.

    Cho's potential for violence was sheltered by his civil rights! We have a real dilemma on our hands.

    When.. (none / 0) (#6)
    by jondee on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 10:11:07 AM EST
    I hold you in my arms and feel my finger on your trigger, I know nobody can do me no harm...Cuz Happiness is a warm gun.


    jeralyn (none / 0) (#8)
    by glanton on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 11:00:17 AM EST
    It doesn't make sense to me that you speak of the "tragic deaths of the Branch Dividians" in the same category as the Oklahoma City victims, the Columbine victims, and (given where our thoughts invariably go from here) the VA Tech victims.  

    Waco was very, very different from these other three, all of which unambiguously fall under the headings Mass Murder.  

    G (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peaches on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 11:38:14 AM EST
    I think she included it because the deaths at Waco were tragic and avoicable. Plus, there is a thread that runs directly from Waco to Oklahoma City.

    Not enough (none / 0) (#10)
    by glanton on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 11:45:10 AM EST
    I just can't get on board with putting it all in the same category.  One thing it does is whitewash Koresh's villainy and ultimate culpability.  Yes, like all deaths by violence, this was avoidable.  But to parallel the Branch Davidians with victims of senseless mass murder is disingenous.

    I'm not sure what you mean by a thread from one to the other.  Do you mean that the OK City bomber was wreaking some kind of imagined retribution?  If so, that just further testifies to his lunacy.


    Koresh's (none / 0) (#11)
    by Peaches on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 12:03:51 PM EST
    and Mcveigh's lunancy notwithstanding, all the events marked tragic deaths.

    But the US has a long history of lunatics. I think the US Gov't made some major mistakes that lead to the deaths at Waco and they are ultimately more culpable than Koresh for the deaths that occurred there.

    McVeigh's terroristic bombing of the Gov't center was motivated by his rational decision that he was at war with the US gov't. I think his decision was a grave, grave mistake. I don't agree, however that he was insane in the same sense that Cho Sueng in Vtech was though. His justification for the deaths of children was the same as the US uses for the civilian deaths that have occurred in wars we have prosecuted around the world. Collateral damage in a war. Tragic, anyway you look at it.

    The children at Waco, also were killed tragically and their deaths were justified as either unpreventable or the result of deliberate killing by Koresh. I am not convinced that their deaths weren't the result of the gov't attempt to end the standoff. In any event, their deaths were a tragedy.


    That all are tragic (none / 0) (#12)
    by glanton on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 12:16:49 PM EST
    I don't quibble with.  

    Nor do I think it at all unreasonable to contend that the Feds made a terrible mistake in Waco.  But, you know, the Waco standoff and subsequent tragedy invites substantive debate.  While criticizing the Feds we have a responsibility to remember that it cannot be denied that they had a legitimate warrant, and that Koresh was a deplorable prime mover of events.

    But Peaches, I only posted on this thread because what happened at Waco was not mass murder.  Tragic, avoidable, terrible, use any adjective you want: but to even indirectly associate the Feds with McVeigh or Cho is just plain wrong.  

    It is equally wrong, and nonsensical, to associate the Davidians with the office workers in OK City or the Va Tech students.

    Words do matter.  I balked when some of our liberal compadres wanted to call Cho a terrorist, or when some wanted to say what happened at VA Tech is the same as what is going down in Iraq.  They are not the same.  It is counterproductive to discuss them as though they are.


    I agree with you, there (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Peaches on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 12:23:28 PM EST
    but, I don't think Jeralyn was calling them the same, just asking us to reflect on the tragic deaths in all of these events.

    They don't deserve to be placed in the same category as far as cause. But, they are a part of our collective consciousness. They were all big events that remian with most of us, just as 9/11 remains with us. When anyone mention Waco every know what they are refering to. Asking us to take a moment to reflect on all these tragic events is not a sinister thing to do - nor does it need ulterior motives to conflate these events as all being of same category other than tragic.


    No to quibble with you, glanton my man... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 06:50:11 PM EST
    Part of me understands that motivations do matter and sees your point, but another part of me says there is no difference.  

    10, 20, 50, 1000 people suffer a violent death...anytime this happens there is at least one similarity (mass violent death), though the motivations differ.  I get the same sad, hopeless feeling when I see the pictures in the paper of Oklahoma City, Waco, Columbine, 9/11, Baghdad, or any mass violent death.  I can't help but think "what's the difference" even though the details differ.  Dead is f*ckin dead, ya know?

    Not to mention...a warrant and a badge is no guarantee of righteousness.