ALABAMA (USA): GOVERNOR SIGNS LAW SHORTENING DEATH-PENALTY APPEALS
June 26, 2017:
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a statute denominated the "Fair Justice Act," which is designed to shorten the state death-penalty appeals process by requiring direct and post-conviction appeals to proceed simultaneously and provides capital appellants only six months to investigate and present post-conviction claims. (Source: AL.com, May 26, 2017, WAFF.com, 26/05/2017)
The law constricts the amount of time death-row prisoners have to file appeals, imposes time limits for judges to rule on appeals, and requires prisoners to pursue their direct appeal and post-conviction appeal simultaneously, including raising claims of appellate counsel's ineffectiveness while appellate counsel is still handling the case.
Governor Ivey characterized the law—which will apply to all defendants sentenced to death on or after August 1, 2017—as "striking an important balance between protecting the rights of a defendant and the state's interest in allowing justice to be achieved effectively and swiftly." Alabama Attorney General, Steve Marshall, said the statute "streamlines the appellate process" but "does not diminish the thoroughness of appellate review of death penalty cases." Critics of the law, however, say that is precisely what it does. Linda Klein, the President of the American Bar Association—which calls for fair process in the administration of capital punishment but takes no position on the death penalty itself—said that the new law "unduly limits counsel’s ability to conduct that critical post-conviction investigation" and will "make Alabama an outlier on how appeals and post-conviction cases are handled."