Wednesday, November 16, 2005

To Periphrase The Comedian Ron White....

...."other countries are abandoning the death penalty....we're installing an express checkout"....

Congress moves to speed up executions

Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:57 PM ET
By Alan Elsner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress said on Wednesday they were moving ahead with legislation that would speed up executions in the United States by limiting the ability of those sentenced to death to appeal to federal courts.

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter said he intended to bring the so-called "Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005" to a vote on Thursday in the Judiciary Committee which he chairs.

A similar bill is also moving forward in the House of Representatives and could clear the committee stage soon.

Republicans have also attached a key provision of the bill to legislation renewing the USA Patriot Act, which Congress is expected to act on later this month.

Lawmakers clashed fiercely at a hearing on Wednesday of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy called it a "crude partisan solution to an unproven and largely nonexistent problem."

Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, the bill's author, said he resented that characterization and insisted he had consulted widely with members of both parties. Leahy later withdrew the words "crude" and "partisan" and apologized.

The bill would restrict the ability of defendants facing the death sentence to have their cases reviewed by federal courts in what are known as habeas corpus appeals.

Kyl said such appeals were often tied up in the courts for 10 years or more, sometimes for 15 years or more. Opponents, including the American Bar Association and other legal groups, say the law would strip the ability of federal courts to review most claims in capital cases and would result in innocent people being put to death.

Specter said he was trying to strike a middle ground, eliminating enormous delays in executions while preserving the legal rights of people sentenced to death.