If candidates get federal review, so should wrongfully convicted citizens: NACDL president seeks consistency from Bush, Congressional leaders
Washington, DC (December 1, 2000) -- On the day that attorneys for Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, argue that the federal courts should oversee a state court’s decisions regarding the recent presidential election, Edward Mallett, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:
Today, Governor Bush and his allies understandably turn to the United States Supreme Court for assistance and relief from what they believe to be a wrongful state court decision, harmful to his interests and those of society as a whole. With the election at issue, Governor Bush apparently sees value in federal court review of important state court decisions.
At this time, we call on Governor Bush and Congressional leaders of both parties to take another look at their position regarding the right of others to have federal courts review state court decisions that may be wrong, in matters involving individual life and liberty.
If Mr. Bush has a right to be heard in federal court, it seems unfair to argue that individuals incarcerated in state prisons who seek federal habeas corpus relief should not enjoy the same right. Surely he would agree that the lives of individuals sentenced to death or to languish in prison have at least equal importance to the political fate of a candidate, even for the highest office in our democracy.
Shouldn’t human lives count as much as election results? We urge Governor Bush and his allies--indeed all of the new Congress--to reconsider the fairness of constricting federal court review of state court decisions involving matters of life and liberty. All Americans, including citizens wrongfully imprisoned, deserve meaningful federal court habeas corpus review of flawed state court convictions.
Mallett is a criminal defense lawyer in Houston. He can be reached at (713)228-1521.