Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More New Conclusions on Federal Habeas

Continuing to review the Hoffmann & King, Rethinking the Federal Role in State Criminal Justice
DRAFT, forthcoming N.Y.U.L.Rev. DRAFT, at page 9 we find the following remarkable conclusions:

Given the time to habeas filing and disposition, most defendants convicted of felony offenses in state court have no practical access to federal habeas review.22 For the latest year with available data, 60% of all defendants who were convicted of felony crimes in state court did not receive any prison sentence at all,23 and the average prison sentence for the remaining 40% was less than five years, with release in less than three.24 This means that the average habeas petition is filed after the average prisoner is released.

It should not be surprising, therefore, that in examining who filed habeas cases, the study found that nearly 30% of prisoners who challenged their state criminal judgments were serving life sentences,25 even though fewer than 1% of all state felons who are sentenced to state prison receive life terms.26 At the other extreme, only 12% of those who filed federal habeas petitions were serving sentences of five years or less27 – even though the latter group represents the majority of all those who are sent to prison.28 Federal habeas corpus review of state convictions and sentences is unavailable to those who are not serving a very long prison sentence or who have not received a death sentence. For most of the more than two million people now incarcerated for state offenses,29 the Great Writ is a pipe dream.

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