Judicial dissents urging that a prisoner's life be spared have noticeably increased in the last decade, says the New York Times. In dozens of capital cases, appeals court judges, some of whom have ruled in favor of the death penalty many times, have complained that Congress and the Supreme Court have raised daunting barriers for death row prisoners to appeal their convictions. In many cases the judges have taken on their colleagues.
“There is an increasing frustration among federal judges throughout the system,” said Hofstra law Prof. Eric Freedman, a critic of the death penalty. The law that generates much of the judges' ire is the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The act has been cited in a half-dozen to two dozen dissents a year. The law, championed by legislators who believed prisoners were abusing the federal appeals process, restricts federal court review of state court rulings in death penalty cases and limits the ability of condemned prisoners to file habeas corpus petitions to get their cases reconsidered.