CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Crimprof Nancy King Leads Habeas Study

KingA new study led by Vanderbilt University CrimProf Nancy King finds that fewer state convictions and sentences are being ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.

The two-year study was partially funded by the National Institute of Justice and is the first to examine the effects of 1996 amendments to the habeas corpus law that apply when state prisoners challenge their convictions and sentences in federal court.

The research examined nearly 2,400 non-capital cases, randomly selected from among the more than 36,000 habeas cases filed in federal district courts nationwide by state prisoners during 2003 and 2004, and more than 360 death penalty cases filed in 13 federal districts between 2000 and 2002.

Before the 1996 law, known as the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act or "AEDPA," federal courts granted a writ of habeas corpus to a state prisoner in about one of every 100 non-capital cases filed. A writ of habeas corpus is a mandate from a court to a prison official ordering that an inmate be be released from custody, re-sentenced, or retried. King’s research found that after the new law was enacted, the grant rate was closer to one in every 300 cases.

“More than one in every five of these cases was dismissed because the prisoner missed the new filing deadline,” said King.

The study also found a federal court was much more likely to overturn the conviction or sentence of an inmate on death row compared to other prisoners. King found that in the capital cases that had reached conclusion in federal court by the study's end, one of every eight death sentences was invalidated.

Rest of Story. . . [Mark Godsey]

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