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Lawmakers Debate Race And Capital Punishment

THE rights of death-row inmates and suspects in capital cases have moved to the forefront of House debate on a proposed crime bill.

On Tuesday, lawmakers rejected an amendment that would have limited the federal appeals of inmates sentenced to die.

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On Wednesday, the House was considering language that would allow defendants in capital cases to introduce racial statistics on the death penalty as evidence of discrimination.

Liberals and members of the congressional black and Hispanic caucuses favor this measure.

``It just requires that these statistics be looked at by the judge if the defendant introduces them,'' said Rep. Don Edwards (D) of California, who chairs the Judiciary Committee's civil and constitutional rights panel. ``This is an ugly vestige of slavery that black lives don't count.''

The Justice Department has taken no public position, but a Justice official said the department opposes the amendment because it could virtually eliminate the death penalty.

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