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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…

North Carolina prosecutor who sent 5 to death row: It's time to end death penalty

Vince Rabil
Vince Rabil
25 years ago, as an assistant district attorney in Forsyth County, Vince Rabil helped put Blanche Taylor Moore on death row. 

Today, Rabil says it is time to end the death penalty and calls Moore - a frail 82-year-old still sitting on death row - "a living monument to the failure of a vanishing legal remedy."

In an op-ed published Sunday, Rabil repudiates a punishment that he spent nearly 2 decades of his career fighting to uphold. In the 1990s, he prosecuted a dozen people for the death penalty and put at least 5 on death row. Four remain there today.

Rabil believed so strongly in the death penalty that, in 1997, he became the 1st prosecutor in the country to seek death for a drunk driver. "This will seriously make everyone stop after the 1st drink or the 2nd one," he said at the time.

Now, Rabil says the death penalty is a broken system that costs taxpayers dearly, threatens innocent defendants, and does little to comfort the grieving families of victims. He says life with no possibility of parole is a more appropriate replacement.

Rabil's transformation reveals how much our state has evolved since the 1990s, when a blind faith in the capital punishment system allowed us to sentence dozens of people a year to die. 

This year, N.C. juries didn't hand down a single death sentence, executions remained on hold for a 9th year, and public opposition to the death penalty reached its highest point since the 1970s. In North Carolina, even a Republican legislator came out against capital punishment.

At the same time, Rabil's courageous stance against the death penalty marks a turning point in North Carolina. While many prosecutors, current and former, no doubt have serious concerns about the death penalty, Rabil is the 1st in our state to take such a public stand.

We applaud Rabil for speaking the truth that so many others are afraid to admit.

Source: nccadp, December 14, 2015

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