Alabama legislators vote to “streamline” death penalty appeals


In Alabama on Thursday, the state Senate voted 26-3 to approve a bill already passed by the House that supporters say will trim years off the appeals process in death penalty cases. reports that the bill, known as the “Fair Justice Act,” “streamlines” the appeals process by requiring death row inmates to exercise their two appeals concurrently instead of consecutively, with appellate teams working simultaneously on behalf of the inmate.

The bill would create “serious problems” that would increase “the risk of executing an innocent person,” the president of the American Bar Association wrote in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate.

Noting that the “American Bar Association takes no position for or against the death penalty itself, but our members — who include prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges — have long been committed to ensuring that capital punishment is fair, unbiased, and accurate,” Linda A. Klein said the bill, which would set a time period for post-conviction claims in an initial petition to be filed within 180 days of the filing of the direct appeal, will “not only make Alabama an outlier on how appeals and post-conviction cases are handled, it will also unduly limit counsel’s ability to conduct that critical post-conviction investigation.”

Six condemned inmates have been exonerated from death row in Alabama since 1973.

The bill now goes to the governor. If she signs it, it will become law.

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