HABEAS CORPUS PROBLEMS

        On page 8 In the Week in Review section of the New York Times of April 17, 2011, there is an Op-Ed article by Joseph L. Hoffmann and Nancy J. King which argues that habeas corpus is usually a waste of judicial time and expense. The purpose of the habeas corpus  hearing is to ensure that innocent people are not kept imprisoned.  They point out that very few post conviction habeas corpus hearings change the status of the convicted.

    Every year there are more than 17,000 habeas corpus petitions by convicts, of which only about 0.45% result in a change in status. They suggest other approaches to replace habeas corpus which would be less expensive.

    Their arguments are incorrect for many reasons.  First 0.4% still amounts to 68 innocent people being exonerated.  Second the Innocence Project estimates that 22,000 prisoners are innocent of the crimes for which they have been imprisoned. Why are not they being exonerated?  Is this a failure of habeas corpus, or is some other factor responsible?

    Third, habeas corpus hearings do not have to occur after conviction, but can take place before trial.  In this situation, the expense of a trial can be eliminated if the person is cleared in the habeas corpus hearing. I, personally, have escaped trial and expense to the county on two occasions.    
    
    Once I used a bullhorn at an outdoor demonstration and was charged with violating the noise ordinance.  In my pre-trial habeas corpus hearing, the judge declared the noise ordinance to be unconstitutional and dismissed the case.

    In the other incident, I was arrested for distributing political literature without permission in front of a Wal-Mart store.  In a pre-trial habeas corpus hearing, the case was dismissed because of non-uniform enforcement.  

    In both of these cases the county was spared the expense of a jury trial.

    The fourth, and most important, reason not to eliminate habeas corpus hearings, is that they would lead to many, many more exonerations, if used properly.  The purpose of these hearings is to protect people from convictions of unconstitutional laws.  

    At least one-third, and probably many more people are in prison for violating unconstitutional laws.  All gun control laws violate Amendment 2 of the U. S. Constitution. All recreational drug-control laws violate Amendment 9 of the U. S. Constitution.  Twenty five percent of all U. S. prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug law violations.

    Others are convicted for obscenity, prostitution,  gambling, ticket scalping, fortune telling, or jay walking.  Some prisoners are incarcerated for ridiculously long sentences because of 3-strike laws.

    All of these improper convictions should be voided for Constitutional reasons, if habeas corpus was enforced properly.  The failure to do so is in spite of habeas corpus.  

    Most judges in this country ignore constitutional restraints.  They violate their oath of office, which requires that they faithfully uphold the U. S. Constitution.  They are guilty of treason.  They should be removed from office, disbarred from practicing law, and in many cases sent to prison.

    If the above problems were resolved, habeas corpus hearings would save an enormous amount of court expenses and a lot of aggravation for many innocent or harmless people.

    Submitted to the New York Times editorial page on April 20, 2011, but not published.