View Full Version : Republicans want to speed up death penalty
By Alan Elsner
2 hours, 1 minute ago
Republicans in Congress have launched a new effort to speed up executions in the United States by limiting the ability of those sentenced to death to appeal to federal courts.
The "Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005," introduced into the House of Representatives by California Rep. Dan Lungren and in the Senate by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (news, bio, voting record), would limit the ability of defendants facing the death sentence to have their cases reviewed by federal courts in what are known as 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 in an interview.
"We're trying to ensure that habeas corpus is not used as a reason for interminable delays and that defendants get one bite of the apple and not multiple bites," he said.
Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott (news, bio, voting record), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee considering the bill, conceded there was little chance of blocking it in the House.
"The House has been very supportive of anything that would strip the innocent of a fair hearing. This bill will ensure that more innocent people will be put to death," he said in a telephone interview.
Death penalty opponents 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 last week in a hearing before the House subcommittee reviewing the legislation. "This new bill would effectively gut habeas corpus review where states have imposed a sentence of death."
Habeas corpus -- the phrase in Latin for "you have the body" -- has been a centerpiece of Anglo-American jurisprudence since it was first developed over 300 years ago in Britain. It gave a defendant the right to have their imprisonment reviewed by a court.
In U.S. death penalty cases, defense lawyers consider the right to have federal courts oversee state court decisions as a vital weapon in their armory.
POORLY FUNDED LAWYERS
"It is critical. Often, the defendant's original lawyers are so poorly funded and so overworked that they cannot do the basic research that the case requires. That's why the error level is so high in death penalty cases," said one California defense lawyer, who asked not to be named.
A study headed by Columbia University statistician and political scientist Andrew Gelman of all 5,826 death sentences imposed in the United States between 1973 and 1995 found that 68 per cent were reversed on appeal.
The most common reasons were "egregiously incompetent lawyering, prosecutorial misconduct or suppression of evidence, misintruction of jurors or biased judges or jurors," said the study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
Federal courts examining habeas corpus appeals overturned 40 percent of the cases that had previously been upheld by state appeals courts -- a fact the authors called worrisome.
The number of death sentences handed down in the United States has fallen to around 150 a year from around 300 a year in the late 1990s, according to figures compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.
Last year, there were 58 executions in the United States and there have been 27 so far this year. The average time a person spends on death row before execution is 11-12 years.
Ronald Eisenberg, a deputy district attorney from Philadelphia, said federal judges often threw out death sentences for frivolous reasons. In Pennsylvania, they have overturned 19 of 20 habeas corpus cases litigated in the past 10 years.
"Whether or not they actually reverse a conviction, federal habeas corpus courts drag litigation out for years of utterly unjustifiable delay, creating exorbitant costs for the state and endless pain for the victims," he told the House subcommittee last week.
07-07-2005, 09:40 PM
<img src="http://www.smirkingchimp.com/images/topics/republicans.jpg"><img src="http://www.geobop.com/education/911/images/mine/bush/nazi.jpg"><img src="http://www.smirkingchimp.com/images/topics/republicans.jpg">
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The RepubliKlans want to SPEED-UP the MURDER innocent people.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!!!! </b></font>
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Everyone in the picture above was on DEATH ROW.
Everyone in the picture above was INNOCENT of the murder they were convicted of.
Everyone in the picture above needed YEARS to FINALLY prove that they were INNOCENT.
Some people in the picture above were less than a few hours away from being MURDERED by the state for a crime they were INNOCENT of.
Some of the people in the picture above were prosecuted by prosecutors WHO KNEW they were INNOCENT , but STILL prosecuted them for the DEATH PENALTY.
Read the book:
by Taryn Simon (Photographer), & Peter Neufeld, & Barry Scheck</b></font>
07-07-2005, 09:49 PM
30 of those 45 shown are black
The death penalty is stupid. It's just retribution for action. I think that a man who killed another man should be in a "Special Prison" just for murderers and rapists. And the most horrific judgement should be life w/o parole.
Just my opinion.
07-12-2005, 05:04 AM
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Starting Over, 24 Years After a Wrongful Conviction</font>
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Thomas Goldstein with attorneys David McLane, left, and Ronald Kaye, speaks in Pasadena, Calif. Goldstein served 24 years in prison before his conviction was thrown out.</b></font>
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<b>by John M. Broder
Jun 21, 2004. </b>
Over the many long years in prison, Thomas Lee Goldstein's sense of disbelief, his bitterness at the judicial system, even his revenge fantasies slowly faded, leaving only a feeling of numbness and a grim patience.
He screamed his innocence to an unhearing world until finally one judge, then another, then another -- five federal judges in all -- agreed that he had been wrongly convicted of murder in 1980 and ordered him set free late last year. Even then, local authorities kept him locked up for four more months before turning him loose on April 2, more than 24 years after he was first picked up for a murder that it now seems clear he did not commit.
He emerged from the black hole of the California prison system on a Friday afternoon in a white-and-yellow jail jumpsuit, his feet in cheap slippers and his pockets empty, a white-haired man of 55. His first stop was at a Veterans Administration office in Los Angeles, hoping to get some clothes, a little money, a place to live. But the V.A.'s computers were down and officials could find no record of Mr. Goldstein's three years in the Marine Corps. He drove away with his lawyer, homeless and still empty-handed.
On his first night of freedom since November 1979, Mr. Goldstein's lawyer, Ronald O. Kaye, took him to a Mexican restaurant in Boyle Heights, east of downtown Los Angeles, where he had a big plate of chicken enchiladas and his first beer in a quarter-century, a Bohemia.
The next morning, Mr. Goldstein said in an interview at Mr. Kaye's offices in Pasadena: ''I called up an old girlfriend hoping for a day of wild sex. Of course she wasn't home, so I went to the law library instead.''
Mr. Goldstein, whose dark hair has turned white and whose slight build has slid into a middle-aged paunch, told his story in the language of the trained legal investigator that he has become.
He said that he survived his years in a succession of California prisons, from San Quentin to Folsom to the maximum-security lockup at Tehachapi, with a combination of Transcendental Meditation and a return to his Jewish roots. While in prison, he had a Star of David tattooed on his forearm. He said he observed the High Holy Days and on several occasions he led Passover dinners with three or four fellow Jewish fellow prisoners, sharing a single Haggadah.
Mr. Goldstein, a native of Kansas and Texas who drifted out to California in the 1970's, spent countless hours in prison law libraries, eventually earning a paralegal certificate. He filed repeated habeas corpus petitions, first on his own, later with the help of public defenders, until in 1996 a federal judge agreed to hold a hearing on his case.
In 2002, Magistrate Judge Robert N. Block delivered a lengthy opinion stating that Mr. Goldstein had been wrongly convicted and ordered him released. Judge Dickran Tevrizian of Federal District Court in Los Angeles and a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit later affirmed his opinion.
The case arose from the shotgun killing on Nov. 3, 1979, of John McGinest in an alley in Long Beach near where Mr. Goldstein was living in an unheated $85-a-month garage. At the time, Mr. Goldstein said, he was an engineering student at Long Beach City College and drinking heavily. He had three arrests for disturbing the peace and public drunkenness, but no record of violence.
The police came to his residence two weeks after the crime to interview him and conduct a search. Although they found no forensic evidence linking him to the shooting, they arrested him and administered a polygraph exam, which was inconclusive. Nonetheless, they charged him with the murder based on what was later -- years later -- shown to be tainted testimony.
Mr. Goldstein's central contention was that the two chief witnesses against him -- a jailhouse snitch named Edward Fink and a supposed eyewitness to the 1979 murder in Long Beach named Loran Campbell -- had testified falsely at his 1980 murder trial, which lasted barely a week.
Both have since died, but Mr. Goldstein was able to establish conclusively that Mr. Fink, a habitual criminal, heroin addict and serial liar, had fabricated his account of Mr. Goldstein's ''confession'' to him when they were together briefly in a Long Beach police holding pen. Mr. Fink said on the stand at Mr. Goldstein's trial that he was receiving no benefit or leniency in exchange for his testimony, a statement that bolstered his credibility with the jury but that was flatly untrue, according to court documents. Mr. Fink became a central figure in a later grand jury investigation into the misuse of informant testimony in numerous criminal trials in Los Angeles County.
Mr. Campbell's testimony was the other key to Mr. Goldstein's conviction, the courts later found. He testified at trial that he saw Mr. Goldstein shoot the victim, but two years ago he recanted his testimony, saying he had been overeager to help the police and had been prompted in his identification of Mr. Goldstein by investigators. Other witnesses to the crime gave conflicting accounts, but none positively identified Mr. Goldstein as the shooter.
Mr. Goldstein was sentenced to 25 years in prison, plus two years for using a gun in a felony. A state appeals court affirmed the verdict after a relatively brief hearing.
Mr. Goldstein said that from the time of his arrest to his conviction nine months later he never believed he would be found guilty. He said that he wanted the proceedings speeded up to bring a quick end to his nightmare. ''I just felt let's get this over with,'' he said. ''I thought they'd give me a second polygraph and that would be the end of it.''
But, he said: ''Not only did no one believe what I said, but the police were putting words into witnesses' mouths. It was just a betrayal of trust by municipal and county employees.''
He said that his mother, who still lives in Kansas, never believed he was guilty, but that he stopped corresponding with her and other members of the family after about five years in prison. ''I got kind of depressed and I cut them all loose,'' he said. ''It was very, very difficult on me and I just didn't want to deal with it.''
Mr. Goldstein says he does not harbor dreams of revenge, but rather of holding the system that so betrayed him accountable. He spends his days as a paralegal at the small Pasadena law firm of Hadsell & Stormer and working with Mr. Kaye on a damage claim against the authorities who took his freedom.
Mr. Kaye said he had not yet decided how large that claim would be.
''How do you really evaluate in financial terms what 24 years of life are worth?'' Mr. Kaye said. ''He was locked up from age 30 to 55. He didn't have a chance to find a wife, have children, build a career. He is a talented legal researcher, a talented draftsman. I ask you, is $25 million enough? Is $50 million enough?''
Mr. Goldstein said his ''sustaining fantasy'' in prison was of a farm in Kansas, far from the confining gray walls of prison and the back streets of Long Beach.
''I dream of owning a large plot of land in the Midwest with a house and a dog and huge field of flowers and a grassy area,'' he said. ''I want to just sit back there and look at the fields and fields of nothing, the antiprison.''
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Report: Thousands wrongly convicted each year
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09-28-2005, 06:08 PM
<font size="3">When You "Speed Up" the Process</font size>
<font size="5"><center>Concerns Grow Over Executions in China</font size>
<font size="4">Thousands are put to death every year,
often after brief trials that are closed to the public</font size></center>
Los Angeles Times
By Mark Magnier, Times Staff Writer
September 28, 2005
HULOU, China — Zhang Huanzhi, 61, hugs a small mound of dirt that holds her son's ashes. Tears and mucous stream from her face as she cries out in pain: Why us, why our boy, why such injustice?
A few months ago, a state-run newspaper reported that someone else had confessed to the rape and murder for which her son had been executed. For years, few had listened as she insisted that Nie Shubin, 20, had been tortured into a false confession, then convicted after a two-hour trial. The only evidence of any note, she says, was the account of a witness who saw someone near the crime scene riding a blue bicycle. Nie owned a blue bicycle.
"If his bicycle were red, or black, he'd be alive today," Zhang said.
Cases such as Nie's have cast a harsh spotlight on China's widespread, and often questionable, use of the death penalty. Now, amid pressure from lawyers, academics, the United Nations and many countries, the government is undertaking a reevaluation.
On Tuesday, government media reported that the Supreme People's Court would <u>regain the authority it lost in 1983</u> to oversee capital cases. The change in the early 1980s was driven by a desire for speedy justice. According to the China Youth Daily, the nation's highest court is adding three criminal trial courts to handle death penalty review cases in a "truly neutral" fashion.
Legal scholars estimate that this change could reduce executions by 30%. The current system has seen provincial judges order up the death penalty at a fast and furious pace.
Comprehensive death penalty statistics remain a state secret, although local jurisdictions will announce executions when that serves a political purpose. Human rights groups, however, say China executes more people than the rest of the world's governments combined.
Amnesty International found evidence of 3,400 death sentences carried out in 2004 but says the real number may be closer to 10,000 a year. This compares with 59 in the U.S. in 2004. More than 70 countries use the death penalty, but most apply it only in the case of a few extremely violent crimes. China executes people for 68 offenses, many nonviolent, including smuggling, tax evasion, corruption, "endangering national security" and separatism, which includes advocating Tibetan or Taiwanese independence.
The state-run press has called for a "kill fewer, kill carefully" approach, perhaps as early as next year. More broadly, the Communist Party hopes a credible legal system will help channel public frustration through the courts rather than into public demonstrations.
Nie's two-hour trial, followed a few months later by his execution, was not unusual. Reports suggest some capital trials last less than an hour. Lu Shile, accused of murder in the northeastern city of Qingdao, was convicted late last year, had his appeal denied and was executed within 24 days, an outcome the Qingdao Evening News praised as "rapid and highly efficient."
In theory, cases not involving state secrets, minors or privacy are open to the public. In practice, judges generally close their courts to outside scrutiny.
As in many other countries, prosecutors and police bring cases before a judge. But critics say evidence-gathering, sentencing and legal procedures are often wobbly. There are no juries, police have enormous latitude, and forensics or other independent experts are rarely used. Whether a suspect lives or dies can depend on timing, location and the political winds. Neighboring provinces sometimes hand down dramatically different sentences for the same crime.
"If you put political stress on an already shaky system and just go for results, the risk of abrogation of justice and disproportionate sentencing is significantly higher," said Nicholas Becquelin, Hong Kong-based research director for Human Rights in China.
Chinese executioners tend to be particularly busy before major Communist Party meetings, the U.N.-declared anti-drug day, crime crackdowns and year-end holidays, with the state press touting executions as conducive to a "safe, joyful and happy new year."
The system is heavily stacked against defendants.
Connections, not legal expertise, often determine who becomes a judge, and corruption is a constant concern. In addition, appeals are rarely successful because they are heard by the same court that issued the original sentence.
On paper, suspects are innocent until proven guilty. In practice, legal scholars say, the government is generally assumed to be correct. Chinese law lacks manslaughter or first-, second- and third-degree gradations for murder, so the death penalty often is the only option.
Legal aid is virtually nonexistent. Even those able to afford lawyers aren't allowed to meet with them until after the police interrogation, which can last weeks or even months, with guards often listening in.
Lawyers also say defending their client too effectively subjects them to arrest, harassment and disbarment under Article 306, a statute barring evidence tampering that the state has employed against attorneys.
"Lawyers can be accused of doing their job," said Nicola Macbean, executive director of the Rights Practice, a London-based development group.
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