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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…

Unfair trials lead to death-row convictions in Indonesia

Corrupt legal system, poor investigations 'work against the innocent'

Many prisoners in Indonesia on death row are there as a result of unfair trials, according to an Indonesian church official.

"Lots of people are still waiting for their execution. Many of them are the fruit of unfair trials," said Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, secretary of the bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, during a Dec. 13 discussion program at the bishops' conference's office in Jakarta.

"If those sentenced to death are finally executed and then research is done after their execution that shows they are victims of unfair trials, the state cannot do anything to pay for its sins," he said.

"This is something that we must reveal, we must tell the public. We must see that trials are not always fair," he said.

Father Siswantoko referred to the case of a 54-year-old Catholic layman named Christian, who was arrested in November 2007 on drug trafficking charges, convicted and later sentenced to death.

The bishops' Advocacy and Human Rights Forum are trying to help secure the man's release. Father Siswantoko said he was convicted on false evidence and received an unfair trial.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, forum coordinator, said Christian, who is being held in Tangerang prison in Banten province, had a name that was similar to a known drug dealer wanted by police, who did follow proper investigatory procedures.

"Christian was not arrested at the crime scene and was never asked for a urine test, which is essential in drug-related cases," he told ucanews.com.

He said the forum was preparing to submit a judicial review for Christian's case and request clemency.

Nainggolan said that Indonesia's legal system remained corrupt. "This can be seen from unfair trials. And it would be very heavy if unfair trials have to be faced by those sentenced to death," he said.

He said the forum has uncovered at least 300 death penalty convictions that were the result of unfair trials.

Meanwhile, Talitha Kara, Christian's daughter, said her family hopes justice will prevail.

"We just want the state to enforce the law. I want my father to be sent home. That's all," she told ucanews.com.

Source: ucanews.com, December 14, 2015

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