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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…

A year on from Peshawar, Pakistan sends more convicts to the gallows

Pakistan has hanged 8 convicted murderers in jails across the country. Executions come a day ahead of the 1-year anniversary of the Peshawar school attack, which prompted Islamabad to reinstate the death penalty.

A moratorium on executions was lifted last year by Pakistan after Taliban gunmen killed more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in the northwest on December 16, 2014.

The latest round of executions took place Tuesday in various locations in Punjab province, with 8 convicted murderers sent to the prison gallows.

"2 convicts on death row were hanged in Multan, 2 each in Bahawalpur and Gujrat and 1 each in Attock and Dera Ghazi Khan," Chaudhry Arshad Saeed, a senior prison official in Punjab, told the AFP news agency.

Pakistan has not released figures on the number of executions carried out since the 6-year moratorium was lifted. But rights activists put the number at 310 since March.

Taliban atrocity spurs return of hanging

The killing of nearly 150 people, mostly pupils, outraged the nation, allowing government to bring back the gallows.

Germany, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to cease executing prisoners.

Islamabad argues the state killings are necessary to deter militancy in the country. But rights groups say 90 % of those executed were convicted of common crimes and not tied to militant groups.

For decades more than 7,000 death row prisoners have been awaiting the gallows, according to statistics compiled by the Law Ministry.

Source: Deutsche Welle, December 15, 2015

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