Justice Department Power to Speed Up State Executions

While we're on the topic of the Patriot Act today, the L.A. Times reports that the Justice Department may begin using one of its rarely noted provisions -- one that gives the Attorney General the power to shorten the time period within which state death row inmates can file federal appeals of their death sentences. New regulations have been proposed to implement the power.

The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use "fast track" procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal courts after conviction in a state court.

As for what the new regulations provide:

The procedures would cut to six months, nstead of a year, the time that death row inmates have to file federal appeals once their cases have been resolved in the state courts.

It would also impose strict guidelines on federal judges for deciding such inmates' petitions. Federal district judges would have 450 days, appeals courts 120 days.

If it weren't so serious, this line would make me laugh: "Proponents say that would prevent foot-dragging by liberal judges."

As if that's the problem given the number of wrongfully convicted people on death row, those denied adequate counsel and DNA testing at the state level, and a host of other constitutional guarantees.

It was bad enough that AEDPA limited habeas appeals to one year. This is even worse.

Update: The ACS blog has more.

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    MACHIAVELLIAN (none / 0) (#1)
    by Sumner on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 01:27:44 PM EST
    - doctrine of expediency; theory that the end justifies the means, irrespective of how unscrupulous or Draconian such actions may be.

     after: Niccolo Machiavelli

    PAtriot Act? (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 03:33:45 PM EST
    WTF does this have to do with combating terrorism?

    The real goal? (none / 0) (#3)
    by 1980Ford on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 04:25:12 PM EST
    Kill 'em before they have a chance to prove their innocence and make "us" look bad.

    66% 75% (none / 0) (#4)
    by Sailor on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 04:43:45 PM EST
    The most far-reaching study of the death penalty in the United States has found that two out of three sentences were overturned on appeal, mostly because of serious errors by incompetent defense lawyers or overzealous police officers and prosecutors who withheld evidence.
    75 percent of the people whose death sentences were set aside were later given lesser sentences after retrials, in plea bargains or by order of a judge. An additional 7 percent were found not guilty on retrial.

    Okay (none / 0) (#5)
    by Claw on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 09:15:55 AM EST
    Where are these foot-dragging, liberal judges, and how can I get clients in front of them.  Don't people realize we have a mounting number of death row exonerees?  This is so, so stupid.  Its only effect will be the execution of innocent people.

    Or (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 09:33:49 AM EST
     Its only effect will be the execution of innocent people.
    More to the point, the execution of poor people.

    Yes (none / 0) (#7)
    by Claw on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 09:56:34 AM EST
    Point well taken.