Presidential counselor Edwin Meese III and Attorney General William French Smith are among contributors to a new book calling for a broad toughening of the nation's anti-crime laws.
Released yesterday by the conservative Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, "Criminal Justice Reform, A Blueprint" advocates wider use of the death penalty, a federal pornography statute, heavier sentencing for drug crimes and limitations on existing gun control laws.
Meese, speaking at a kickoff luncheon for the book, supported a change in the federal insanity defense to require the defense to prove insanity rather than requiring the prosecution to prove sanity. "The public is outraged when a person who has committed a crime is able to utilize a legal technicality," he said.
In his chapter in the book, Meese also takes strong exception to the federal exclusionary rule, which bans illegally obtained evidence from trials. "A drug pusher, child molester, rapist or even murderer may be released to commit other crimes simply because a police officer made an inadvertent error," he wrote.
Meese argued that illegally obtained evidence should be allowed as long as the error was made "in good faith."
Steven Schlesinger, the new head of the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, goes further, calling for abolition of the exclusionary rule. Schlesinger said illegally obtained evidence should be used in court and that the offending police officer should be punished separately.
In his chapter, Smith argued that state prisoners should be prohibited from using the writ of habeas corpus to ask federal courts to review the legality of their convictions. The administration formally has only proposed limitations on that right.
"The availability of habeas corpus to state prisoners . . . has little or no value in avoiding injustices or ensuring that the federal rights of criminal defendants are respected," Smith said.
"The present system of federal habeas corpus is essentially duplicative; inconsistent with appropriate recognition of the dignity and independent stature of the state judiciaries; . . . and wasteful of limited criminal justice resources," he said.
Short of total abolition, Smith said he supports an administration proposal to place a one-year time limit on filing such appeals after conviction.
A chapter by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) advocates judicial immunity for all federal employes from lawsuits involving their official duties. The most publicized cases have involved charges of brutality by federal law enforcement agents, but federal employes have been sued for damages on many other grounds.
The book is the second in a conservative campaign for tougher crime laws led by Paul M. Weyrich, president of the foundation.