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Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Due [Not] Process Bill

The Washington Post reports:
The bill, pushed by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.) in the House and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in the Senate, would impose onerous new procedural hurdles on inmates seeking federal review, those, that is, whom it doesn't bar from court altogether. It would bar the courts from considering key issues raised by those cases and insulate most capital sentencing from federal scrutiny. It also would dictate arbitrary timetables for federal appeals courts to resolve habeas cases. This would be a dramatic change in federal law, and entirely for the worse.

The legislation would be simply laughable, except that it has alarming momentum. A House subcommittee held a hearing recently, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold one and then mark up the bill this week. Both Judiciary Committee chairmen surely know better. House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), after all, has fought for better funding and training for capital defense lawyers. And Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has long opposed efforts to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over critical subjects. Neither has yet taken a public position on the bill. Each needs to take a careful look. It is no exaggeration to say that if this bill becomes law, it will consign innocent people to long-term incarceration or death.
Innocent until proven guilty? Consider this statistic from the New York Times:
A comprehensive study of 328 criminal cases over the last 15 years in which the convicted person was exonerated suggests that there are thousands of innocent people in prison today.

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