Some congressional Republicans are trying again to speed executions by limiting appeals to federal courts, Reuters reports. The “Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005,” introduced by California Rep. Dan Lungren and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, would limit the ability of defendants facing the death sentence to have their cases reviewed by federal courts in habeas corpus appeals. “You see delays in death penalty cases where they are allowed to drag on for 15 or even 25 years. Defense attorneys have come to believe the longer they delay, the better it is for their clients,” Lungren said.
Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the ranking Democrat on the House crime subcommittee, said, “This bill will ensure that more innocent people will be put to death.” Critics say the law would strip the ability of federal courts to review most claims in capital cases. “It seeks a radical cutting and slashing of our existing process of habeas corpus reviews of state convictions,” University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt said in a hearing on the bill. A study headed by Columbia University statistician and political scientist Andrew Gelman of all 5,826 death sentences imposed in the U.S. between 1973 and 1995 found that 68 per cent were reversed on appeal.