Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
|Long title||An Act to deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, provide for an effective death penalty, and for other purposes.|
|Public law||Pub.L. 104–132|
|Statutes at Large||110 Stat. 1214|
|United States Supreme Court cases|
|Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651 (1997)
Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333 (2006)
Jimenez v. Quarterman, 555 U.S. 113 (2009)
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, (also known as AEDPA) is an act of the United States Congress signed into law on April 24, 1996. The bill was introduced by former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, passed with broad bipartisan support by Congress (91-8 in the US Senate, 293-133 in the US House of Representatives) following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Although controversial for its changes to the law of habeas corpus in the United States (Title I), upheld in Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651 (1997), it also contained a number of provisions to "deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, provide for an effective death penalty, and for other purposes," in the words of the bill summary.
- providing restitution/assistance for victims of terrorism (Title II),
- designation of foreign terrorist organizations and prohibitions on funding (Title III),
- removal or exclusion of alien terrorists and modifications of asylum procedures (Title IV),
- restrictions on nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons (Title V),
- implementation of the plastic explosives convention (Title VI),
- changes to criminal law involving terrorist (or explosives) offenses, including increased penalties and criminal procedures changes (Title VII),
- commissioning a study to determine the constitutionality of restrictions on bomb-making materials (Title VII - A - Sec. 709),
- funding changes and jurisdiction clarifications for law enforcement related to terrorism threats (Title VIII),
- and miscellaneous provisions in Title IX.
The AEDPA had a tremendous impact on the law of habeas corpus. One provision of the AEDPA limits the power of federal judges to grant relief unless the state court's adjudication of the claim resulted in a decision that was
- contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the US Supreme Court; or
- based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.
In addition to the modifications that pertain to all habeas corpus cases, AEDPA enacted special review provisions for capital cases from states that enacted quality controls for the performance of counsel in the state courts in the post-conviction phase. States that enacted the quality controls would see strict time limitations enforced against their death-row inmates in federal habeas proceedings coupled with extremely deferential review to the determinations of their courts regarding issues of federal law. Only Arizona has qualified for the additional provisions, but it has not been able to take advantage of them because it has not followed its own procedures.
Other provisions of the AEDPA created entirely new statutory law. For example, the judicially-created abuse-of-the-writ doctrine had restricted the presentation of new claims through subsequent habeas petitions. The AEDPA replaced this doctrine with an absolute bar on second or successive petitions.
Petitioners who attempted to bring claims in federal habeas proceedings that have already been decided in a previous habeas petition would find the claims barred. Additionally, petitioners who had already filed a federal habeas petition were required to first secure authorization from the appropriate federal court of appeals. Furthermore, the AEDPA took away from the Supreme Court the power to review a court of appeals's denial of that permission, thus placing final authority for the filing of second petitions in the hands of the federal courts of appeals.
Soon after it was enacted, AEDPA endured a critical test in the Supreme Court. The basis of the challenge was that the provisions limiting the ability of persons to file successive habeas petitions violated Article I, Section 9, Clause 2, of the US Constitution, the Suspension Clause. The Supreme Court held unanimously, in Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651 (1997), that the limitations did not unconstitutionally suspend the writ.
In 2005, the Ninth Circuit indicated that it was willing to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of AEDPA on separation of powers grounds under City of Boerne v. Flores and Marbury v. Madison, but it has since decided that the issue had been settled by circuit precedent.
While the act has several titles and provisions, the majority of criticism stems from the act's tightening of habeas corpus laws. Those in favor of the bill say that the act prevents those convicted of crimes from "thwart[ing] justice and avoid[ing] just punishment by filing frivolous appeals for years on end," while critics argue that the inability to make multiple appeals increases the risk of an innocent person being killed.
Other, more recent criticism centers on the deference that the law requires of federal judges in considering habeas petitions. In Sessoms v. Grounds (Ninth Circuit), the majority of the judges believed that the state erred in not throwing out testimony made in the absence of the defendant's attorney after he had requested counsel, but they were forced to overturn his appeal.
The dissenting opinion said that federal courts can only grant habeas relief if "there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme] Court's precedents."
- Lundin, Leigh (2009-06-28). "Dark Justice". Criminal Brief.
- Holland, Joshua (2009-04-01). "A Tale of Two Justice Systems". AlterNet. Prison Legal News. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
- Lundin, Leigh (2011-10-02). "The Crime of Capital Punishment". Death Penalty. Orlando: SleuthSayers.
- Denniston, Lyle (2005-05-05). "Is AEDPA unconstitutional?". SCOTUSblog. Archived from the original on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- "Irons v. Carey". 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- "NBA Finals' Rookie Coaches: Golden State Warriors' Steve Kerr and Cleveland Cavaliers' David Blatt". ABC News.
- "Congressional Record for April 17, 1996, page S3476" (PDF). 1996-04-17. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
- Rankin, Bill; Judd, Alan (2003-09-21). "Witnesses Recant; Law Stymies Death Row Appeal". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
- Peacock, William (2014-09-24). "5 Judges Issue 3 Dissents From Habeas Grant to Interrogated Teen". FindLaw.
- Text of the Act, also in PDF
- Timeline of Passage
- Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: A Summary, Charles Doyle, American Law Division, Federation of American Scientists, June 3, 1996.