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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…

Filipino Murder Convict Executed in Saudi Arabia

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
A Filipino murder convict was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after failing to meet the demand of the Sudanese victim's family for payment of $1 million to save him from the death penalty, officials said.

Joselito Lidasan Zapanta's execution was carried out after his family and the Philippine government managed to raise only 23 million pesos ($488,000), said Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose.

The victim's family refused to sign an affidavit of forgiveness that would have spared Zapanta the death penalty unless it was paid 48 million pesos ($1 million), setting a two-week deadline earlier this month for payment, Jose said.

Zapanta, a 35-year-old tile-setter, was convicted of murder and robbery by a Riyadh court in 2010.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the government "has undertaken and exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts, and extended consular and legal assistance to preserve the life of Mr. Zapanta."

The plight of Filipino workers overseas is a sensitive issue in the Philippines. About a tenth of the country's 100 million people work abroad, including around 2.2 million in Saudi Arabia.

Jose said that 79 Filipinos are on death row in various countries, including 41 in Malaysia and 27 in Saudi Arabia.

Source: The Associated Press, December 29, 2015

Related content:

79 more Filipinos on death row abroad —DFA

Following the execution of Joselito Zapanta on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) revealed that 79 more Filipinos are on death row for various offenses abroad.

DFA spokesperson Charles Jose told GMA News Online on Tuesday that most of the Filipinos on death row are being held in Malaysia and their charges are mostly murder or related to illegal drugs.

The breakdown of Filipinos on death row, according to DFA:
  • Malaysia - 41
  • Thailand - 1
  • Indonesia - 1
  • Brunei - 2
  • Vietnam - 1
  • US - 2
  • Saudi Arabia - 27
  • Kuwait - 2
  • UAE - 1
  • Lebanon - 1

DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (OUMWA) has yet to provide a breakdown of the charges.

Joselito Lidasan Zapanta
Joselito Lidasan Zapanta
Zapanta was executed on Tuesday, five years after he was convicted for killing a Sudanese national over rental dispute in April 2010. 

He was sentenced to death when the victim's family refused to accept blood money in exchange for a Tanazul or Affidavit of Forgiveness.

Zapanta's remains were buried right after his execution, in accordance with the burial tradition of Islam. Zapanta had converted to Islam years ago.

The DFA earlier offered its condolences to the family of Zapanta, which managed to raise only P23 million of the P48 million blood money being asked by the Sudanese national's family.

OFW group Migrante also offered its sympathy to Zapanta's family.

Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado blamed the government for Zapanta's execution.

"This is another proof of government negligence. Its policy to provide legal assitance only when OFW is convicted and sentenced to death. Its failure will result to execution of our bagong bayani as in the case of Joselito," Regalado told GMA News Online. 

Source: ALG, GMA News, December 29, 2015

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