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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…

OFW saved from Saudi death row

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Millionaires pay blood money in exchange for Pinoy driver’s freedom

SAUDI authorities have reportedly released a Filipino driver who was incarcerated for his alleged involvement in a car accident that killed an Indian man after his bosses paid the P2.8 million “diyya” or blood money in exchange for his freedom, a newspaper in Saudi Arabia reported Saturday.

Under the Shariah law which prevails in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, the “diyya” is the financial compensation paid to the victim or heirs of a victim in the cases of murder, bodily harm or property damage.

Paying the “diyya” which in Arabic means “blood money,” is an alternative punishment to “Qisas” or equal retaliation. The amount of compensation is determined by the Shariah court and reportedly depends on the victim’s religion and percentage of responsibility.

According to the Arab News, the two Saudi millionaires who “donated” the 225,000 riyal blood money owned the company where the unidentified Filipino was working.

“A local court has sent a letter to the prison to release the Filipino and consider the case closed,” the report said.

The Filipino was driving a van in Al Rass town in Al Qassim province when he accidentally hit the victim who was killed instantly. It was not specified in the report when the incident took place.

Help urgently needed for OFW on death row

The mother of another Filipino who is on death row in Riyadh, also in Saudi Arabia, on Saturday renewed her appeal for help in raising the blood money needed to save her son from execution.

According to OFW rights advocate Susan Ople, Ramona Zapanta, mother of Joselito Zapanta, came to see her Saturday and pleaded for help.

“The Sudanese family is asking for P48 million, which is still a long way from the P23 million that the Zapanta family with the help of the government had raised,” Ople told The Manila Times.

The amount collected is being kept in a Saudi bank account under the name of the Philippine Embassy.

Zapanta, who hails from Bacolor, Pampanga, left for Saudi Arabia in 2007 to work as a tile-setter.

“Unfortunately, the Sudanese family has refused any amount lower than their demand of P48-million. This means that the Zapanta family needs to raise P25-million in a span of two weeks, or maybe less, considering that a royal decree had already been issued for the implementation of the sentence,” Ople said.

The Zapanta family is expected to hold a press briefing this week to publicly appeal for help, Ople added.

Ople said the Zapanta family needs to raise the remaining amount a few weeks or the Saudi authorities will impose the death sentence.

Ople said Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago has confirmed that Zapanta’s case has become extremely urgent.

“We are talking about weeks here, hence the need for the family to go public in order to seek everyone’s help,” Ople said.

Fr. Jerome Secillano, head of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), called not only for prayers but also for donations to raise the remaining amount.

He also called on the Aquino administration to do all it can to help Zapanta.

“We challenge our government officials to exhaust all possible remedies to stay the execution and possibly gain the freedom of our kababayan,” Secillano said.

Source: The Manila Times, December 27, 2015

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