Opponents of a bill to streamline federal review of death penalty cases told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that the measure fails to guarantee a hearing for individuals with evidence of actual innocence, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It would bury the truly innocent under a welter of state and procedural bars,” said Barry Scheck, a Cardozo Law School professor and co-director of the Innocence Project.
Supporters of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Az.) said long delays between convictions in capital cases and executions remain the norm, despite streamlining provisions Congress enacted in 1996. “Ultimately, this concerns victims who have been through a great deal already,” said Thomas Dolgenos, chief of the federal litigation unit in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. “It’s important that we not subject them to additional trauma in the federal courts.” On Tuesday, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Boston assailed Congress for restricting access to courts in the Real ID Act. Enacted in May, it sets national drivers license standards and says that aliens facing deportation can appeal only to federal appeals courts, not lower courts.