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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…

Despite U.S. Supreme Court ruling, state of Florida insists next execution go on

Cary Michael Lambrix
Cary Michael Lambrix
2 days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's method of death penalty sentencing, the state said Thursday that the next execution should go on as planned.

Cary Michael Lambrix, 55, is set to die Feb. 11 for murdering two people in Glades County in 1983. He has been on death row for 31 years. Lambrix's taxpayer-funded lawyers asked the Florida Supreme Court for an indefinite stay of execution, citing the Tuesday decision in the case of Pensacola killer Timothy Hurst, in which justices said juries, not judges, should make every fact-finding decision that leads to a death sentence.

"This Court should grant an immediate and indefinite stay of execution and schedule full briefing so that the implications of the Hurst decision may be conducted in a reasonable manner and not under the circumstances of an active death warrant," wrote Lambrix's lawyers, Neal Dupree, William Hennis III and Jessica Houston, with the state's Capital Collateral Regional unit in Fort Lauderdale.

In response, Attorney General Pam Bondi said that Lambrix should die as scheduled because he has used "dilatory" tactics to delay his date with the executioner, including seven post-conviction motions, and that the Hurst ruling should not apply retroactively to his case.

"It is time for Lambrix's sentence for these brutal murders to be carried out," Bondi's petition said. "The equities in this case tilt decidedly against Lambrix in favor of the state and the victims' family members."

Bondi told the Times/Herald she was unsure of the death penalty's future in Florida. "I wish I knew the answer," Bondi said after a speech to the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "The way the opinion was written, it didn't give us an instruction manual on how to handle these cases."

Bondi's death penalty expert, Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski, and prosecutors across the state are trying to decide how the Hurst decision should be interpreted and whether it applies retroactively to earlier cases - in which case the death penalty in Florida would come to a halt.

"No one can come to a consensus of what to do next," Bondi said, but what's certain is that the Legislature will have to pass legislation quickly to reflect the high court's opinion.

Lambrix escaped from a work-release program in 1982 while serving a 2-year sentence for violating probation. The governor's office said he and girlfriend Frances Smith met the victims at a bar and invited them to their trailer, where Lambrix beat Clarence Moore Jr. to death with a tire iron and strangled Aleisha Bryant. Lambrix stole Bryant's gold chain, buried them in a shallow grave and stole Moore's car.

Gov. Rick Scott signed Lambrix's death warrant on Nov. 30. Scott has signed more death warrants than any governor since Florida reinstituted the death penalty in 1976.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, January 15, 2016

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