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HATCH BATS .500 ON 2 CONTENTIOUS ISSUES IN CRIME BILL

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, batted .500 on two contentious issues in the crime bill about which he helped lead Senate fights Tuesday.

He lost a fight to expand police powers to conduct searches without a warrant. The Senate rejected 54-43 an amendment that would allow use of illegally seized evidence in court if police had a "reasonable belief" they were abiding constitutional requirements when they seized it.But Hatch and conservatives won a fight to expand the federal death penalty to 49 more crimes. The key vote came when the Senate rejected 73-25 an attempt by Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., to replace the federal death penalty with life imprisonment.

The Senate is still to debate whether to include a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases - which may bring a long filibuster by critics - before a final vote is taken.

During the debate on the death penalty, Hatch - a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has handled much of the debate for Republicans - said Americans have constantly and clearly said they favor establishing death penalties.

He noted 40 states now have them. "That exceeds the number of states that have had the death penalty at any other time in our history.

Hatch said that despite claims by critics that at least 23 innocent people had been executed in America over the years, he said researchers have shown that statistic has no reliable basis - including one case in Utah, that of union organizer and songwriter Joe Hill.

"Whatever Joe Hill's accomplishment as a labor leader may have been, he was eventually convicted of a sordid murder. . . . He robbed a grocery store on West Temple Street in Salt Lake City, leaving the store owner and his son dead," Hatch said.

While Hatch said some scholars assert Hill was innocent, he said they base that mainly on a fictional novel by Wallace Stegner titled, "Joe Hill: A Biographical Novel."

On the debate about expanding police search powers, Hatch said voting against it - as the Senate did - would "let the murderers, rapists, robbers and drug dealers go free" on technicalities.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved Bush's plan to severely limit legal maneuvers by death row inmates seeking to delay their executions.

The proposal, passed 58-40, would block so-called habeas corpus petitions in federal court unless the judge found that state courts treated the defendant unfairly, and those petitions would have to be filed within six months.

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(Additional information)

The Utah votes

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, voted to reject a crime bill amendment to replace the death penalty with life terms. He voted for the proposal to allow more use of evidence obtained by police in searches without warrants. Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, did not vote in either roll call.