St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sunday, April 21, 1991
By: Tim Bryant
A lawyer who speaks for 20,000 defense attorneys says President George Bush’s new anti-crime proposals include “more cutbacks in constitutional rights than have ever been proposed by any president in modern history.”
The lawyer, Alan Ellis of San Francisco, is president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He said in an interview Friday that Bush was “pandering to the worst fears of the public, fears that are promoted by crime-time news” on television stations across the country.
In a speech last month in Washington, Bush called for longer prison sentences for criminals caught with guns. He chided Congress for failing to pass legislation extending the death penalty to more federal crimes, to restrict appeals of death-row inmates or to allow a “good faith” exception to the judicial rule barring use of illegally seized evidence.
Ellis said, “No [Ronald] Reagan/Bush crime bill would be complete without longer and longer sentences…particularly in the area of firearms.”
U.S. attorneys nationwide recently held news conferences to announce a greater emphasis on prosecuting criminals who use guns. The program is called Project Triggerlock.
Stephen B. Higgins, the U.S. attorney here, said at the time: “Triggerlock will take aim at what the public fears the very most – violent crimes committed at gunpoint.”
Ellis said the violent crime rate continued to rise, even though the nation’s prison population doubled in the last decade, to 1.1 million. He estimated that running state and federal prisons cost $16 billion to $21 billion a year.
Ellis especially criticized the proposal to broaden police powers in seizing evidence.
“If this bill becomes law, police [looking for guns] will be free to go house to house, rousting people out of bed, without a warrant, on a whim,” he said. “It’s a green light for police mayhem.”