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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…

Georgia executes Brian Keith Terrell

Brian Keith Terrell
Brian Keith Terrell
JACKSON, GA. — Brian Keith Terrell was put to death at 12:52 a.m. Wednesday for the 1992 murder of 70-year-old John Watson of Covington.

Terrell accepted a final prayer and refused to record a final statement, the Georgia Department of Corrections said in a release.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Terrell’s final appeal shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, clearing the way for the death to proceed. But it took an hour for the nurse assigned to the execution to get IVs inserted into both of the condemned man’s arms. She eventually had to put one into Terrell’s right hand.

Terrell winced several times, apparently in pain. After all the witnesses were seated and a prayer was offered, Terrell raised his head and mouthed, “Didn’t do it,” to Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, who was sitting at the center of the front row.

Terrell’s execution marks the fifth lethal injection the state has carried out this year, more than any other year since the state first used lethal injection in 2001.

The 11th U.S. Court of Appeals declined his appeal Tuesday evening; the Georgia Supreme Court turned down his appeal Tuesday afternoon; the U.S. District Court did the same Tuesday morning; and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency Monday night.

Unlike a number of condemned men who preceded him, Terrell, 47, did eat his last meal. But he had the same dinner served other inmates at the Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson: chicken and rice, beans, rutabagas, turnip greens and cornbread.

As for visitors, only his pastor from Covington showed up Tuesday. His mother, who has insisted Terrell is innocent, was absent.

In 1992, Terrell stole John Watson’s checkbook and withdrew a total of $8,700 from the victim’s bank account.

Watson, a friend of Terrell’s mother, Barbara, told her he would not press charges against her son if a substantial amount of the stolen money was returned within two days. Instead, Terrell ambushed Watson as he left his Covington house for a dialysis appointment.

Terrell’s lawyers had pleaded for clemency because of their concerns about the pharmacist who made the lethal injection drug.

According to court filings, that pharmacist has a 50 percent error rate.

The pharmacist — whose identity is secret under state law — compounded the drugs used in six previous executions, including the pentobarbital that turned cloudy in early March, forcing the state to postpone scheduled executions. The Department of Corrections said it has addressed the problem. Kelly Gissendaner, who was the lone woman on Georgia’s death row, and another man have since been put to death.

Terrell’s lawyers argued in court filings that at the very least Georgia should use another pharmacist to make the drug.

Terrell becomes the 5th person Georgia has put to death this year, more than any other year since the state first used lethal injection in 2001.

Terrell becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 60th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Terrell becomes the 28th and last condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1422nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

The 28 executions are the fewest in the USA since 1991 when 14 were carried out. The nation's next scheduled execution is set for January 7 in Florida.

Source: ajc.com, Rick Halperin, December 9, 2015

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