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A study on limiting death row appeals

Bill would alter Habeas Corpus Act and strip federal judges of much of their power. The intention is to speed up executions. The legal changes--long sought by state prosecutors and the families of murder victims--are attached to an anti-terrorism bill that Republican leaders hope to pass by Friday, the one-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Although the anti-terrorism provisions have divided Republicans and provoked bitter debate, the sweeping changes affecting death penalty cases have won broad support. The authors of the bill a study on limiting death row appeals they want to halt the seemingly endless and duplicative appeals for convicted killers.

Death penalty in the United States: an unbalanced practice

Dan Lungren has made the legislation his top priority in Washington. It took the state 13 years after a conviction to execute San Diego murderer Robert Alton Harris, and 14 years after conviction to put to death the Los Angeles area "freeway killer," William G.

In 1993, convicted murderer David Mason refused to appeal and agreed to be executed. In the cases of Harris, Bonin and Gacy, no one disputed their guilt.

But the current law allows convicted capital murderers to fight through at least two rounds of appeals, one in the three-tiered state court system and a second in the three-tiered a study on limiting death row appeals court system. The pending a study on limiting death row appeals makes four major changes to limit federal appeals. The only exception is for new evidence that gives "clear and convincing" proof the inmate is not guilty. In the past, state inmates have filed one appeal after another to keep themselves alive, but the Supreme Court has restricted that practice in recent years.

In the past, inmates have delayed as long as possible.

A study on limiting death row appeals

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court considered the case of a Georgia inmate who waited until the day of his execution--nine years after his conviction--to file his first appeal in federal court. Nonetheless, the justices on a 5-4 vote said the law entitled him to one appeal.

The pending bill would prevent such delays. Recently, California prosecutors have complained that federal judges have held onto death penalty cases for four and five years before deciding appeals. The new law would give a federal district judge six months to decide on an appeal. A study on limiting death row appeals inmate then could go to the U. Court of Appeals, which would be required to act within another six months.

Congress May Limit Death Penalty Appeals

As of March 1, the state had 436 inmates on death row. About one-third of those inmates have appeals pending in federal court, Gillette a study on limiting death row appeals. The changes "are a nightmare," said Natman Schaye, a Tucson lawyer and a death penalty expert for the National Assn. At the end of last year, 3,046 inmates sat on death row a study on limiting death row appeals the 38 states with capital punishment.

The rate of executions has been rising slowly in the last decade, but the number of inmates put to death is quite small compared to the large populations. Last year, 56 inmates were executed. Critics of the pending changes frequently invoke the "Great Writ" of habeas corpus and suggest that Congress is about to scrap a basic principle of American law.

But the current system of appeals has a lesser and more disputed lineage.