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Republicans to move on legislation streamlining death penalty cases

[JURIST] Congressional Republicans on Wednesday said they planned to move forward with the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 [bill summary], legislation aimed at speeding up executions in the US by limiting the number of appeals that can be made by defendants. Sen. Arlen Specter [official website] said he planned to bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Thursday, while a similar bill is also going forward in the House. The bill restricts the ability of defendants to seek writs of habeas corpus [LectLaw backgrounder] to have their appeals heard in federal courts. The bill was the subject of a Judiciary Committee hearing [witness list] on Wednesday, in which Sen. Patrick Leahy [official website] said the law addressed a "nonexistent problem." Another provision that is attached to the USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill would subject arguments by defendants that they had incompetent counsel to review by the attorney general rather than a federal judge. According to the Department of Justice, the number of people sentenced to death and executed has been falling [JURIST report], with 59 executed and 125 sentenced to death in 2004. Both the American Bar Association and the Judicial Conference of the United States [official websites] have opposed the legislation [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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