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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…

South Africa: Oscar Pistorius Released on $692 Bail After Murder Conviction

Oscar Pitorius
Oscar Pitorius
Oscar Pistorius, who murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013, was granted bail on Tuesday and has the freedom of South Africa's capital Pretoria as he waits to appeal his conviction in April.

The Paralympic champion, nicknamed "Blade Runner" because of the prosthetic legs he uses to race, was granted bail of 10,000 rand ($686), after spending the last two months under house arrest at his uncle's home in a wealthy Pretoria suburb.

Pistorius had been meant to serve the rest of a five-year sentence there but the Supreme Court upgraded the 29-year-old's conviction to murder from culpable homicide last week. He will appear in court on April 18 to give an update on his appeal at the constitutional court.

He faces a minimum 15-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp in a case that has fascinated and divided South Africa, a country beset by high levels of violent crime.

Rights groups say the white track star has received preferential treatment.

On Tuesday, South African High Court Judge Aubrey Ledwaba said Pistorius could leave the house between 7 a.m. (12 a.m. ET) and noon and, with permission from the authorities, travel within a radius of 20km (12 miles).

Pistorius has been ordered to hand in his passport and wear an electronic tag.

When he was arrested in 2013, Pistorius had to set aside bail of 1 million rand, but on Tuesday he argued for a reduced amount, saying his means had diminished.

Source: Reuters, December 8, 2015

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