Even after findings that have shown that innocent people have been sentenced to death, the Republicans have decided they want to speed up the process – in effect denying proper appeal rights of death row inmates.

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, 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.

One Democrat responds:

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, 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.

What’s the rush? I thought Republicans belonged to the culture of life party.

We all know that’s a lie.

“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.

These Republicans don’t even know the meaning of the word “justice” anymore. How else could they possibly justify this type of legislation?

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.

68 percent reversed on appeal. Think about that.

This isn’t about justice. This is about money – just as everything is with the Republican party. Need to conquer budget deficits? Kill people quicker.

The fact that the US even has the death penalty now is an abomination, considering all of the facts around its use and abuse.

Keep a close eye on this legislation as it moves through the congress and speak loudly and clearly to your congresspeople to quash this legislation. It’s bad enough that unlawful combatants are held in perpetuity in Gitmo (where Bush said today they will receive “fair and open trials”). Now the Republicans are attempting to provide the same kind of so-called justice to death row inmates in the United States.

Tolerate this and you tolerate a massive abuse of human rights. They’ve already gotten away with it with foreign prisoners. Don’t let them do it to your fellow citizens in US prisons as well.

Everyone deserves a fair hearing.

End the death penalty now. Contact your congresspeople.

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