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Death Penalty Habeas Corpus: Defining the Issues

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 73 Issue: 4 Dated: (December-January 1990) Pages: 215-219
I P Robbins
Date Published
5 pages
Because the Federal death penalty habeas corpus review process creates tensions between State and Federal interests, several solutions have been proposed to clarify issues and mitigate conflict.
The Federal writ of habeas corpus is used to review State court convictions and is most often employed when the conviction results in a death sentence. The least complicated death penalty case in which relief is denied at every stage can come before the U.S. Supreme Court a minimum of three times and can be presented at least two times each to Federal district and appellate courts. Additionally, many complicated issues of death penalty litigation come before the courts under extreme time pressures and result in frantic legal maneuvers. Clarification of the major issues in State and Federal post-conviction review of State criminal convictions is necessary. Several proposals, including legislation introduced by Senator Biden, a report by an American Bar Association task force, and a report by an ad hoc committee formed by Chief Justice Rehnquist are discussed. Ways to ensure Federal-State coordination in death penalty cases are also identified. 30 footnotes.