Advocates of the proposed federal Streamlined Procedures Act, scheduled for a hearing today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, say it is needed to stop the “endless delays” between convictions and executions in capital cases, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bogus and repetitive claims by inmates, they say, only serve to prolong the agony of murder victims’ families. The American Bar Assn., one of many groups opposing the legislation, says it would mandate “virtually unattainable procedural and other requirements to establish innocence. These requirements will prevent many innocent prisoners from reaching federal court.”
The Streamlined Procedures Act would dramatically curtail writs of habeas corpus, the method used by inmates to assert illegal imprisonment. The Judicial Conference of the United States, several former federal judges and FBI directors, and conservatives including ex-U.S. Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia say the bill could erode fundamental liberties. “This is a very radical bill,” said Ruth E. Friedman, an appellate lawyer who has tried capital cases in Alabama and has advised the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts in efforts to improve the quality of death penalty representation in the South.