Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

So how many more "little-noticed provisions" of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (yes, that's really the name) are waiting to rear their ugly heads? Earlier this year we found out about a provision that was snuck in that allowed the executive branch to replace US attorneys without Senate confirmation, as had been the law. Now it turns out that, according to an LA Times story today, there's a provision that:

"...gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use 'fast track' procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal courts after conviction in a state court."

The article goes on to say:

"The move to shorten the appeals process and effectively speed up executions comes at a time of growing national concern about the fairness of the death penalty, underscored by the use of DNA testing to establish the innocence of more than a dozen death row inmates in recent years." Of course, many of those individuals freed on DNA evidence would be dead now if the appeals process had been sped up, as DNA tests simply weren't available when they were initially sentenced.

A USA Today article on the same topic mentions that "Pennsylvania [is]among the states that have expressed interest in participating in this fast-track execution program."

My question: how is Gonzales going to find the time to do this fast-tracking of executions with all the secret warrantless wiretapping he's now busy authorizing?

Sara in Philly

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