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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…

Saudi Arabia judgment on Ali Mohammed al-Nimr crucifixion 'unfounded' with 'shocking flaws'

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr's crucifixion judgment has been deemed "unfounded" by an independent legal expert on counterterrorism and human rights. Zafar Gondal, a former judge and magistrate, conducted an analysis into the case, which revealed "shocking flaws" with the ruling.

Gondal's research was conducted on behalf of the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) and took into consideration the Kingdom's legal obligations with respect to international and regional treaties that the country is bound to. 

The analysis also placed heavy emphasis on the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states prohibits capital punishment for those under the age of 18.

The convention states that those under 18 who are arrested or detained must have full access to guardians and legal assistance. Saudi Arabia is acceded the convention in 1996 and Gondal's legal analysis concludes al-Nimr's ruling is in violation of Article 37 and 40.

A spokesperson for ESOHR said: "The independent expert analysis has proven major gaps in the prosecution and conviction of Ali al-Nimr, which violate multiple international treaties, and calls on the judges involved to be the subject of serious disciplinary action."

Gondal's analysis also detailed a breakdown of the Nimr case based on the judicial certificate and case documentation. It revealed there had been an "absence of any form of concrete evidence to corroborate the charges", including a lack of oral, physical or scientific charges.

Furthermore, the "shocking" legal analysis revealed the judge was "biased" and "incompetent". Gondal concluded the judge had not met the standards for writing judgments as no concrete evidence had been provided and the judge had allegedly provided his ruling "based on conjectures and whims". 

Gondal's analysis accused the judge of "quoting many fatwas that reflect a particular brand of Islam" and "fail[ing] several legal duties", including assuring that Nimr had access to a lawyer.

"We at ESOHR consider this independent review as providing a strong and compelling case for the nullification of Ali al-Nimr's charges and sentence," said a spokesperson for ESOHR. "[We] call for a re-trail based on international fair trial principles and under the monitoring of neutral observers."

Gondal's research concluded Nimr's ruling is in violation of article 10 and 11 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which is binding on UN member states. 

The former judge noted one coerced confession provided the basis for all charges against the young activist, despite Nimr informing the judge of the coercion.

Source: ibtimes.com, December 10, 2015

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