Hartford Courant
  Tuesday, October 25, 2005 

  Don't Limit Habeas Appeals

  Congress ought to kill a reckless proposal that would severely limit 
  the right of appeal in criminal cases.

  The Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 would gut habeas corpus, the 
  hallowed protection that allows prisoners to challenge in federal 
  court the legality of their convictions. Habeas corpus is often the 
  last resort for death row inmates asserting their innocence.

  Separate versions of the bill are pending in the House and Senate. 
  Each would impose new procedural hurdles that would effectively 
  block many habeas appeals and thereby speed up executions.

  The legislation has met with loud protests from judges, prosecutors,
  defense lawyers and conservative groups such as The American 
  Conservative Union and The Rutherford Institute, which called the 
  proposals "radical legislation" that "would likely result in the 
  execution of citizens who have been wrongly convicted."

  Habeas corpus was considered so important to the nation's founders 
  that they enshrined it in the Constitution. Congress cannot abridge 
  that guarantee, but can skirt it by imposing rules that would 
  essentially thwart prisoner appeals.

  There is no hard evidence that habeas appeals have clogged the 
  federal courts or unduly dragged out final resolutions of cases.

  The Judicial Conference of the United States, which runs the federal 
  courts, told Congress that before it clamps down on habeas corpus, 
  it ought to first determine whether there are excessive delays and, 
  if so, what causes them. That makes sense.

  Sponsored by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Republican Rep. 
  Daniel E. Lungren of Folsom, Calif., the Streamlined Procedures Act 
  would make it tougher for convicts to assert their innocence - a 
  proposal that ought to chill anyone who has followed the death 
  penalty debate in recent years.

  Dozens of convicts have been released from death row after it was 
  determined they did not commit the crimes that led to their 
  convictions. Just last year Congress passed the Innocence Protection 
  Act in an attempt to reduce wrongful convictions.

  To now cut off a convict's last appeal by denying habeas corpus 
  would be a travesty.