Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Stop this disaster law - the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996

At the heart of Davis's difficulties is a law passed by Congress and
signed by President Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing
-- the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

The legislation was aimed at bomber Timothy J. McVeigh but has had far
broader consequences: It limits the reasons for which federal courts can
overturn death penalty convictions. In Davis's case, it has helped block
the exploration of witnesses' statements that they had lied at trial.

Before the law, the federal courts intervened to provide "relief" to death
row inmates -- that is, a new trial, new sentencing hearing or a
commutation of the sentence to life imprisonment -- in about 45 percent of
cases, though the rate was declining. But between 2000 and 2007, federal
courts intervened to provide such relief to the death row inmate in about
10 % of cases, according to a forthcoming study.

"People might say the law makes the system more efficient. But we have
significantly increased the likelihood of executing someone who is
actually innocent," said David R. Dow, a University of Houston law
professor who co-authored the study with Eric M. Freedman of Hofstra

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