Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 29, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

LEGALIZED RAILROADING....Today the Senate will consider the Streamlined Procedures Act, a blandly titled bill that would practically eliminate federal oversight of state criminal justice systems. Ira Reiner, the Los Angeles district attorney for eight years in the late 80s and early 90s, wrote a good piece a few days ago about why this legislation should be voted down:

Essentially, the legislation would eviscerate the role of the federal courts in ensuring that innocent people are not mistakenly convicted of crimes and that state courts do not send people to prison in violation of their constitutional rights. It would restrict habeas corpus rights, which are enshrined in the Constitution, date back to the Magna Carta and guarantee that you can go to a court and tell a judge that you are being held illegally.

Why is this the role of the federal courts? Although most state courts and prosecutors are committed to the highest expression of justice, it is unfortunately true that sometimes that ideal is honored more in the breach than in observance. Historically, it is the federal courts that have provided the necessary corrective action when state courts fail.

....I am one of more than 50 former prosecutors who have written to the Senate Judiciary Committee to express concern about the legislation.

....At the very heart of the American criminal justice system is the bedrock principle that every person charged with a crime should receive a fair trial. All else is simply procedure. A fair trial means an honest trial, properly conducted with honest evidence. Anything less is neither justice nor American. Ensuring the right to a fair trial is what gives prosecutors the moral authority to do their jobs, to strike strong blows but fair ones. We cannot allow "due process of law" to be reduced to a mere platitude.

Italics mine.

This is actually a pretty good test for the alleged "moderate" Republicans in the Senate. Not only is this is a plainly bad bill that deserves to be soundly defeated, but it's hardly something that's a key part of the president's agenda. There's no major test of loyalty here.

Will they do the right thing?

Kevin Drum 1:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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