Tuesday, December 27, 2005

SF Chron: Patriot Act Provision Expedites State Executions

From the December 25 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Congress' last-minute decision to extend key search and surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act for five weeks has sidetracked, at least temporarily, a little-noticed but important provision intended to speed up death penalty cases in California and other states.

The proposal, attached to a version of the Patriot Act that was blocked by a Senate filibuster, represents the latest attempt by prosecutors to shorten timetables for capital case appeals that, in California, often last 20 years or more. [...]

If the death penalty legislation passes, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer will seek to apply the tighter deadlines to California cases, said spokesman Nathan Barankin. Lockyer sponsored a bill as a state legislator that was intended to qualify California for the fast-track procedures under existing law.

"He is an advocate for reducing the nearly two-decade delay in resolving capital appeals,'' Barankin said.

While many people in California are well aware that Lockyer is a Democrat, the Chronicle should have informed readers of his party affiliation. After all, in the Chronicle's extensive coverage of the state-sanctioned execution of Tookie Williams, the paper, of course, mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger's GOP membership.

The provision of the Patriot Act mandating speeding up executions is one more huge reason to oppose reauthorizing the law, when the Senate reconvenes.

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