David J. Celuch
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Why do death row appeals take so long?

The death sentence is one of the most controversial sentences a court in Oregon can hand down. When a judge applies this sentence to a case, he or she does it with the utmost care. After all, the judge is sentencing a person to be put to death, which is never an easy thing to do. However, you may know that even when a person gets the death sentence, it is not likely that he or she will actually see that sentence carried out.

So, why do inmates rarely get put to death even if they received a death sentence? The reason is the appeals process. According to Care2, once the court hands down the sentence, there is an automatic appeal triggered. This first appeal is to look at issues that arose during the trial and analyze the case to ensure everything was legal and no rights violations occurred.

If the sentence is upheld, the person may file a post-conviction petition. This is available to present new evidence or to have issues of civil rights violations heard. A person may also request an appeal on the basis that his or her lawyer did not do an adequate job.

After this appeal, the person has a right to file a federal habeas corpus. This allows a federal appeals court to review the case and appeals thus far to determine if it can come to the federal court. If every appeal fails to this point, a person may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Each appeal can take years. The average time the process takes is over 16 years. You may wonder why people appeal at all when many times it fails or takes so long that the person dies before the process is over. The reason is if he or she wins an appeal, the court may provide a lesser sentence or overturn the conviction. This information is for education and is not legal advice.

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