Defense Lawyers Oppose Change to Capital Appeals

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Birmingham, Ala.

Capital defense lawyers are opposing proposals to streamline appeals in death penalty cases, a change they say could result in Alabama executing innocent people.

Attorney General Luther Strange, county prosecutors and victim advocates say appeals last too long.

Strange, a Republican, is proposing changes in the legislative session beginning Tuesday. The bill has a good chance of passing the GOP-controlled legislature.

But two lawyers who specialize in capital cases say time-consuming work is needed to ensure that death row inmates were convicted and sentenced properly.

Bryan Stevenson, of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, says proposed changes would result in less reliable death sentencing.

And attorney Richard Jaffe, of Birmingham, says multiple steps are needed to make sure lawyers do their jobs right and evidence is correct.