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A Rough Day for Habeas Corpus

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The Supreme Court today refused to hear 7 appeals from detainees being arbitrarily detained at Gitmo. As of now, Boumediene is a Potemkin monument to human rights, signifying a commitment to human rights that doesn’t exist.

And as if to remind us of the long-standing, bipartisan commitment to reducing civil liberties, the Court also unanimously overturned a Sixth Circuit granting of habeas corpus rights based on the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The prisoner in this case his hardly sympathetic or innocent — he concededly killed his estranged wife and mother-in-law — but he had a reasonable case that the killings were not a capital offenses under Kentucky law, and also had a reasonable argument that there was prosecutorial misconduct. 6CA set aside his death sentence, but the AEDPA requires the federal judiciary is now required to give extreme levels of deference to state courts. In this case, however, the blame rests more with Congress and President Clinton than with the Supreme Court. The ongoing gutting of habeas corpus rights won’t only reduce the rights of those who are guilty of something.

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