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Save Habeas Corpus


Kevin Drum links to this terrific article about the Streamlined Procedures Act, which would severely restrict habeas corpus rights that go back to that dangerous piece of judicial activism the Magna Carta, and restricts federal oversight although the appointed federal courts have always been more reliable than elected state courts where criminal justice is concerned. And iocaste is right: it’s a scandal that what little coverage there’s been of this extremely important bill has been limited to op-ed pages.

…just from this last term, consider Miller-El v. Dretke. The prosecutor in Miller-El’s capital trial used pre-emptory strikes to remove 10 of the 11 qualified black jurors during voir dire, and during that term in Batson v. KY the Supreme Court ruled that the discriminatory use of pre-emptory challenges was unconstitutional. As Souter noted, “[t]he prosecutors took their cues from a 20-year old manual of tips on jury selection, as shown by their notes of the race of each potential juror. By the time a jury was chosen, the State had peremptorily challenged 12% of qualified nonblack panel members, but eliminated 91% of the black ones.” Despite this, ordered to reconsider the case in light of Batson the Texas courts upheld the egregiously racist actions of the prosecutor. As Souter says, “the state court’’s conclusion that the prosecutor’s’ strikes of Fields and Warren were not racially determined is shown up as wrong to a clear and convincing degree; the state court’’s conclusion was unreasonable as well as erroneous.” Not surprising–remember, on the Texas courts Al “Ten Minute Memo” Gonzales was considered a moderate. Removing effective supervision from courts like this is an awful idea.

iocaste also has a useful guide to the current habeas process, which has already made bringing meritorious claims very difficult.

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