Monday, September 26, 2005

What's a Little Habeas Corpus Among Friends?
Streamline Procedures Act

In today's LA Times, Ira Reiner, LA District Attorney from 1984-1992, calls readers' attention to a bill to come before the Judiciary Committee called the Streamline Procedures Act. In the name of efficiency it would severely restrict the ability of federal courts to review state court rulings in criminal cases. As DNA evidence continues to prove the innocence of people on death row, this seems an inopportune time to weaken guarantees of a fair trial.

"The Streamline Procedures Act only allows for federal review of convictions based on new proof of what the bill calls "actual innocence." It would not, for example, allow for review where a defendant was convicted on the basis of perjured testimony or other fabricated evidence, or when a conviction was tainted by racial bias in jury selection.

And even when there is new evidence of innocence, under this proposed law a person could still be denied a hearing if he or she could not sufficiently explain why the evidence was not discovered earlier. In other words, no matter how compelling the evidence of innocence might be, the courthouse doors would be closed because the proof came too late."

It seems to me that the US will have increasing trouble encouraging basic rights and democracy around the world, if we don't practice what we preach. True patriotism fights to preserve these ideals even when it is not convenient.


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