Published January 13, 2015
Republican Rep. Dan Lungren of California is sponsoring a bill that would limit federal appeals (search) for death row inmates that would cut the appeals process from 10 years to as few as two.
Click in the video box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Trace Gallagher.
The average length of time for an inmate to stay on death row (search) in the United States is more than 10 years. In California, it's closer to 20, some say due to the time allowance on appealed decisions that inherently provides an extension.
More than 600 inmates are waiting on death row in California.
Under the proposed bill, if states can show they are providing adequate legal council to convicts during the state appeals process (search), federal courts will be forced to fast-track those cases.
Lungren said he hopes to block otherwise baseless delays by desparate inmates and activist, anti-capital punishment judges.
"There's just no reason for that length of a delay in that kind of case where you know you've got the right guy," Kent Scheidegger, of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which advocates reduced rights for convicted criminals, told FOX News.
"The federal courts would have deadlines that they would have to meet to get these cases processed. Presently they can sit on these cases forever, and in many cases have sat on them for many, many years," he said.
Others defend the system, admitting it can be slow, but that it plays a critical part in making sure justice is served.
FOX News Legal Analyst Jim Hammer cites the number of cases where death row inmates have been freed as justification for the long process.
"While states have done a lot now to increase legal representation to men on death row, we see every week in the newspaper men convicted of murder being released because of DNA [evidence]," he said.
Since 1973, 121 people have been released from death row in the United States after being exonerated. This bill would still allow death row inmates their federal appeals, but only based on newly-discovered evidence, like DNA, that shows actual innocence.