24 August 2006

The death penalty

Yes, I'm up a little late tonight (or is that, this morning). Couldn't sleep.

I just finished the book Conviction by Richard North Patterson. The book follows the post-conviction death penalty litigation surrounding the fictional Rennell Price. Will the Paget family of lawyers save Rennell Price from execution? Or will the justice system finally put an end to seemingly endless appeals? Of course, you'll have to read the book to find out.

Patterson's book is clearly opposed to the death penalty, and the Pagets make explicit their abhorrence and frustration of a law passed in 1996 called the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. At issue is the writ of habeus corpus, specifically how AEDPA severely limits the writ (federal habeas corpus is the statutory procedure, 28 U.S.C. 2241 et seq., under which state and federal prisoners may petition the federal courts to review their convictions and sentences to determine whether the prisoners are being held contrary to the laws or Constitution of the United States1). AEDPA is their primary hurdle in trying to save Rennell's life.

As a proponent of the death penalty, for me it is always interesting to read something written by the "other side," especially when it is intelligently researched and well-written. My only disappointment is Patterson's almost blanket portrayal of liberal judges as compassionate, and conservatives (especially the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Fini as a thinly-veiled Antonin Scalia) as conniving and heartless, but sadly, I guess this is to be expected. I may not agree with Patterson's politics, but it's a good book, worthy of your time.

Reminds me that I still ought to have gone to law school...
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