The Politics of Fear and Death: Successive Problems in Capital Federal Habeas Corpus.”

By Bryan A. Stevenson / New York University (NYU), on 1 January 2002

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996 was drafted, enacted, and signed in an atmosphere of anger and fear. The legislation, which includes substantial cutbacks in the federal habeas corpus remedy, was Congress’s response to the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing. During the congressional hearings on the bills that culminated in AEDPA, the proponents of the legislation claimed that its habeas corpus restrictions and other provisions were necessary to fight domestic terrorism. The Senate bill was approved by the House on April 18, 1996, the day before the one-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. President Bill Clinton invoked the bombing in a statement he issued at the time of the Senate’s passage of the legislation and again when he signed the legislation into law. Even at the time of the debates, some courageous legislators were willing to denounce the fallacious connection that the bill’s proponents drew between the bombing and the broader issues of the scope and availability of habeas corpus review. Many of the habeas corpus restrictions ultimately built into AEDPA had been under consideration by Congress since 1990, though none had been adopted. The congressional proponents of these restrictions seized upon the Oklahoma City tragedy as a means of accomplishing their longstanding goal to scale back federal habeas corpus review.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Networks,