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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Belarus on its own way towards capital punishment ban

Belarus will seek its own way to cancel capital punishment. The statement was made by Nikolai Samoseiko, Chairman of the Legislation and Court Affairs Commission of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, head of the parliamentary ad hoc group on capital punishment matters, on 22 February.

The MP said that the ad hoc group is supposed to find Belarus' indigenous way to deal with the capital punishment ban due to the country's geopolitical location. On the one side Belarus is bordered by the European Union where all the countries have banned capital punishment. On the other side there is China, the leader in the number of issued death penalties, and Russia which has vetoed capital punishment but the general public is ambiguous about it.

According to the MP, Belarus is now ripe to discuss whether it needs death penalties. There are strong pro and con arguments. In particular, those in favor believe that the possibility of death penalty can prevent crimes while those who oppose capital punishment point out that courts can make errors. There can be no winners in this dispute because the decision will be made depending on the political will, opinion of the general public, the legal base, believes Nikolai Samoseiko.

He stressed that the number of death penalty verdicts has been greatly reduced. While in 1998 the number stood at 47, in 2008 and 2009 it made up 2 per annum. In addition, the number of life sentences pronounced lately is declining. It is an objective process because the number of crimes punishable by death is falling. The parliamentarian also reminded that according to the Constitution capital punishment in Belarus is a temporary measure.

Asked when the bill to ban capital punishment may be ready, Nikolai Samoseiko did not mention specific dates. He added it would be incorrect to say that the decision to ban death penalty will be introduced as a bill. In line with a ruling of the Constitutional Court the decision can be made either by the president or the parliament.

A session of the ad hoc group on capital punishment matters of the House of Representatives took place on 22 February. Members of the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic discussed a draft schedule for the ad hoc group operation for the next six months. They plan to use the time to scrutinize statistics, review court practices, study law enforcement practices in Russia and Ukraine, visit detention facilities where life sentence convicts serve their term. A preliminary agreement has been reached to hold an international seminar in Minsk to discuss capital punishment practices in association with PACE members.

Source: The National Center of Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus, Feb. 22, 2010

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