Gutting Habeas Corpus: The Inside Story of How Bill Clinton Sacrificed Prisoners' Rights for Political Gain
"On the eve of the New York state primary last month, as Hillary Clinton came closer to
the Democratic nomination, Vice President Joe Biden went on TV and defended
her husband’s 1994 crime bill. Asked in an interview if he felt shame
for his role passing a law that has been the subject of so much recent
criticism, Biden answered, 'Not at all,' and boasted of its successes
— among them putting '100,000 cops on the street.' His remarks sparked a
new round of debate over the legacy of the crime bill, which has
haunted Clinton ever since she hit the campaign trail with a vow to 'end
the era of mass incarceration.'
A few days later, on April 24, a lesser-known crime law quietly turned
20. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 — or AEDPA
— was signed by Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.
While it has been mostly absent from the recent debates over the crime
policies of the ’90s, its impact has been no less profound, particularly
when it comes to a bedrock constitutional principle: habeas corpus, or
the right of people in prison to challenge their detention. For 20
years, AEDPA has shut the courthouse door on prisoners trying to prove
they were wrongfully convicted. Americans are mostly unaware of this
legacy, even as we know more than ever about wrongful convictions. Barry
Scheck, co-founder and head of the Innocence Project, calls AEDPA 'a
disaster' and “a major roadblock since its passage.'Many would like to
see it repealed.'"