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Gop Gets Tough On Crime Bill House Loosens Evidence Rules, Limits Death Row Appeals

Majority Republicans moved to rewrite the 1994 crime law Wednesday, drawing fire from President Clinton, who promised he will oppose GOP tinkering that thwarts his goal of putting 100,000 more cops on the streets.

Surrounded by law enforcement officers, Clinton denounced infringements on the 1994 act and announced a new grant to hire more police.

“I will oppose any attempt to undermine the capacity of the crime bill to produce the 100,000 police officers that we promised the country,” Clinton said.

The House passed two anti-crime bills Wednesday, loosening rules on court use of unlawfully seized evidence and imposing a one-year limit for death row inmates to file appeals of their state sentences to federal courts.

The bills are elements of a six-part anti-crime package the GOP leadership insists is needed to put more teeth in the $30 billion crime law enacted last year. The anti-crime legislation is part of the House GOP’s “Contract With America.”

“Convicted murderers on death row regularly make a mockery of the criminal justice system by using every trick in the book to delay the imposition of their sentence,” Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., said.

Opponents claimed the bill takes away the rights of a detained person to be brought before a court to decide the legality of his detention.

In a bill condemned by Democrats as violating Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the House voted 289-142 to allow wider use of certain unlawfully obtained evidence.

The bill gives prosecutors in federal courts added power to use evidence gathered by law enforcement officers acting in “good faith,” whether or not they had a valid search warrant.

Taking advantage of a rare crack in GOP unity, Rep. Harold Volkmer, D-Mo., pushed through an amendment, by a 228-198 vote, that excludes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from such relaxed rules on evidence.

Volkmer, an ardent gun-control opponent, called the BATF “one of the most Rambo, rogue law enforcement agencies in the United States.” With backing from the National Rifle Association, the amendment picked up 73 Republican votes despite opposition from the GOP leadership.