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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…

Indonesia: Lindsay Sandiford's lawyer arrested for 'trying to bribe a judge'

Lindsay Sandiford in her Kerobokan prison death-row cell
Lindsay Sandiford in her Kerobokan prison death-row cell
Lindsay Sandiford's last legal bid to avoid the firing squad has suffered

A British grandmother's hopes of escaping the death penalty for smuggling drugs into Bali have suffered a huge setback after the lawyer handling her final appeal was arrested for allegedly trying to bribe a judge.

Indonesian Chris Harno - who holds the funds and paperwork for Lindsay Sandiford's last legal bid to avoid the firing squad - is accused of offering a bribe on behalf of another client in a separate 225,000 pounds fraud case.

Sandiford - who was initially listed for execution in September after 14 other drug traffickers were put to death this year - said she was 'deeply shocked and upset' at the arrest of Harno, whom she hired partly because of his reputation as an unusually honest lawyer.

Harno - who has not yet been charged with any offence - took on the 59-year-old Briton's case in October and was also put in charge of 18,000 pounds donated by well-wishers to fund her final appeal, known as a PK hearing. On Friday, Harno's legal assistant, Ursa Surpit, told The Mail on Sunday after visiting him in jail: 'Lindsay's legal funds are safe. We are making arrangements for another lawyer to represent her at the PK if necessary.'

However, Harno has already missed last month's deadline to file the grounds for her appeal.

A temporary moratorium on executions in Indonesia is also due to expire at the end of this month, meaning Sandiford could then be executed at any time unless her appeal proceeds.

The 18,000 pounds held by Harno is made up of mostly public donations to an online appeal launched to fund Sandiford's legal fight. However, she still needs another 12,000 pounds to pay for expert witnesses and the legal costs of the hearing.

Sandiford told The Mail on Sunday she was calm at the prospect of facing the firing squad.

"I'm nearly 60 and a lot of people don't live to be this age,' she said. 'Being lined up and shot isn't the ending I'd pick, but everyone has to go somehow.' Harno is being held in the same grim police cells in Bali's capital where Sandiford was taken after her 2012 arrest for smuggling 10.5lb of cocaine worth 1.5 million pounds from Bangkok.

He may later be transferred to Kerobokan Prison, where his client is currently being held.

The lawyer - in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit - wept when a friend visited him at the cells on Tuesday. There is no suggestion any bribes have ever been offered in Sandiford's case.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has refused to help fund Sandiford's appeal, despite a recommendation to consider doing so by 5 Supreme Court judges. They warned 'substantial mitigating factors' had been overlooked in her original trial.

Sandiford, who is originally from Redcar, Teesside in North Yorkshire, claims she was forced to carry the drugs after threats to her younger son's life.

She received the death penalty despite co-operating with police in a sting operation to arrest others higher up the drugs syndicate. The plot's alleged ringleader, Briton Julian Ponder - who conducted a behind-bars romance with British Vice-Consul Alys Harahap that led to her sacking - is expected to walk free in early 2017 after serving a 6-year term with remission.

Source: dailymail.co.uk, December 13, 2015

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