Habeas corpus and death row

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Habeas corpus and death row

Post  Jennie on Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:15 pm

Habeas corpus and death row

According to the Innocence Project, 218 prisoners have been freed because of DNA testing. Sixteen of them were awaiting execution.

The Death Penalty Information Center has counted 129 death row prisoners who were found innocent since 1973. With over 2 million people in jail and 5 million on parole, this is still a tiny percentage of those unlawfully convicted.

Despite this heartbreaking record of frame-ups, Congress in 1995 sped up the trip to the electric chair or lethal injection by passing the “Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act” (AEDPA).

This vicious law has severely limited the right of death row prisoners to file habeas corpus appeals. Among those whose appeals have been cut is the eloquent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

One of the senators sponsoring this act was the notorious segregationist Strom Thurmond. As a circuit judge, Thurmond sentenced 17-year-old Black sharecropper Samuel Osborne to die for defending himself against his white landlord.

As South Carolina governor, Thurmond executed 21 people in the state’s electric chair. Everyone burned to death was African-American.

President Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA on April 24, 1996, while Mumia Abu-Jamal was spending his 42nd birthday on Pennsylvania’s death row.

The U.S. Constitution specifically forbids Congress from suspending the right of habeas corpus. But these rights never applied to those held in slavery.

Slave masters and wealthy merchants wrote the Constitution. They also suspended habeas corpus in cases of invasion or insurrection. Besides being worried about slave revolts, they were concerned about the rebellion of poor farmers led by Daniel Shays in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the AEDPA. Not a single judge dissented.

Yet five justices on this court have upheld the right to habeas corpus for inmates at the Guantánamo concentration camp. That’s because of the uprisings in the Middle East and Latin America.

Troy Anthony Davis is one of those unlawfully convicted and faces execution in Georgia. No physical evidence linked Davis to the killing of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Seven of the nine main witnesses who testified against Davis have recanted.

The AEDPA has prevented Davis from bringing up evidence that could prove his innocence in appeals.

His life is in danger. On March 17 the Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis his appeal. Go to troyanthonydavis.org to see how you can help save the life of this innocent man.

(source: Workers World)

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