The House approved a tough election-year anti-crime bill Friday but agreed to include provisions barring execution of prisoners who demonstrate their death sentence was imposed because of racial discrimination.
The House also included an amendment allowing the government to seize the homes of S&L executives convicted of fraud and who were using state homestead laws to keep what may be multimillion-dollar mansions.The crime bill, which occupied the House for three days of occasionally emotional debate, became a catch-all for get-tough proposals by lawmakers eager to send a law-and-order signal a month before Election Day.
The bill was approved on a 368-55 vote. It goes back to the Senate, which has passed its own version, and likely to a conference committee to resolve differences.
House members first approved an array of amendments, including one establishing minimum penalties for sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of a truck stop or highway rest area.
On one of the bill's most controversial features, the House voted 216-204 to reject an amendment that would have removed a racial justice provision for the appeal of death penalty cases.
That provision would allow death row inmates to use racial statistics in their appeals to show the sentencing courts were biased, and bars execution of prisoners who demonstrate their death sentence was imposed because of racial bias.
Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., cited what he said was an "incredible fact: Never in the history of this country has a white man been convicted and executed for killing a black man or any minority."
Congressional staffers said that assertion covered the more than 125 executions carried out since capital punishment resumed in 1977.
A dozen more crimes could be subject to the federal death penalty and executions would be carried out more quickly, as a result of amendments added to the bill.
The bill calls for the death penalty for more than 20 federal crimes, including provisions added through floor amendments covering murder aboard trains, planes and automobiles as well as in mail bombings, bank robberies and others.
Assassination or attempted assassination of the president would be punishable by death under the bill, as would treason and espionage.
It approved another amendment establishing a "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule, which bars the use of illegally obtained evidence at a trial.
The change would allow evidence to be used in court even if it was obtained in a search or seizure that violated constitutional protections, if it was ruled that the seizure was carried out in the belief it was constitutional.