Who Has the Body? The Paths to Habeas Corpus Reform

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The purpose of this article is to place the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996 within a political and historical framework that describes the effort by the Supreme Court and various interested parties to restrict prisoners’ access to the federal courts by way of habeas corpus. Of principal concern here is how an act of terrorism against the United States provides an opportunity for Congress to restrict death row prisoners from obtaining habeas corpus review. Along with an analysis of Supreme Court decisions, three attempts to limit federal habeas corpus review for state prisoners from the late 1980s to the middle 1990s are described, all of which helped Congress to pass the AEDPA, a law that ratified the Supreme Court's most restrictive habeas corpus decisions dating back some 35 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-339
Number of pages23
JournalThe Prison Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
  • Supreme Court
  • antiterrorism law
  • death penalty
  • habeas corpus


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