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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…

Arizona Wants To Speed Up A Death Penalty Case Because Its Drugs Are Expiring

Arizona's supply of midazolam expires at the end of May. The state is hoping that a challenge brought by death row inmates can be wrapped up with enough time to carry out the executions.

Arizona is trying to carry out more executions after a brief moratorium brought about after the state carried out the longest execution in American history.

In that execution, Joseph Wood took nearly two hours to die, and witnesses reported him gasping during that time.

After the state commissioned a review, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake is allowing a lawsuit brought by five death row inmates challenging the state's new methods to go forward.

The problem for Arizona: They need the case to wrap up soon because their sedative expires at the end of May.

At a status hearing on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Sparks said the state was having problems getting more.

The judge seemed receptive to speeding up the case, saying he would be "expecting accelerated discovery."

As of yet, the inmates haven't even filed their new complaint yet - but summarized it at the hearing as asking for more transparency and asking that the 2nd drug be removed.

The 2nd drug in a 3-drug protocol is a paralytic, and is used to cover any movement or twitching by the inmate. The inmates seem prepared to argue that it's a "cosmetic" drug used only to mask any pain the inmate may be feeling due to the other drugs.

The inmates' attorneys were only informed of the drug's expiration date on the day of the status hearing, and said the case shouldn't be in "crisis litigation" to meet the May deadline.

5 inmates brought the lawsuit, and the case would have to wrap up fairly quickly for the state to be able to execute all 5 of the inmates. Executions take considerable amounts of planning, and as a result, states try to space out when they occur.

In Oklahoma, for example, when the state had a 43-minute botched execution in 2014, officials and executioners there blamed scheduling 2 executions for 1 day as a big reason why things went wrong.

The state didn't offer a date to the judge on when the case would have to be wrapped up to carry out the executions, and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office didn't respond to a request when asked by BuzzFeed News.

The shortest time frame the state has carried out 5 executions was in 2012. But in that case, the 5 executions took place over a span of 5 1/2 months.

Source: BuzzFeed News, January 15, 2016

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