The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

House Holds Hearing On Death Penalty Appeals


House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and
Civil Liberties today held a hearing on the need for reform of death
penalty appeals. Specifically, the hearing focused on the impact of habeas corpus limitations to pending death penalty sentences. The right to habeas corpus allows those detained by the government to challenge their detention and is a cornerstone of the American justice system.

1973, there have been 139 individuals who have been released from death
row through evidence of their innocence, including nine so far in 2009
alone. Death sentences are also disproportionately imposed on people of
color, with African Americans comprising more than 40 percent of
today's death row inmates while constituting only 12 percent of the
national population.
is currently a bill pending in the House, H.R. 3986, the Effective
Death Penalty Appeals Act, which would ensure the availability of
federal habeas corpus relief for defendants sentenced to
death but who are later able to present crucial evidence establishing
their innocence that may not have been available at the time of trial.
The American Civil Liberties Union has endorsed the bill.
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
sentencing of innocent people to death continues to be a fundamental
failure of our justice system. Providing federal courts with the
opportunity to hear evidence of an individual's innocence, which may
not have been available at the original trial, is an essential
component of a fair justice system, and is particularly critical in
cases where a defendant has been sentenced to death. There is simply no
remedy for the execution of defendants who were not afforded all of
their constitutional rights or, even worse, are innocent of the crime
charged. The House should pass the Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act
as quickly as possible."
To read the ACLU's letter of support for the Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act, go to:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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