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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…

Firing squads, electrocution; options for Mississippi's death penalty

Mississippi Death Chamber
Mississippi Death Chamber
Attorney General Jim Hood outlined his legislative priorities Wednesday. During a news conference he outlined his focus on better laws for child victims and child trafficking. And when it came to the death penalty, he wants options so he can carry out the will of the court.

In possibly the most controversial initiative, Hood told reporters he wants to have alternatives to the death penalty if the drugs become unavailable or lethal injection itself was declared unconstitutional.

"In case somehow there is a lethal injection declaration that it's unconstitutional or something, we would have alternative means available in law such as nitrogen hypoxia. These are all alternatives, fallback positions such as execution by a firing squad," said Hood.

According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, 3 states have recently passed laws allowing for alternative execution methods if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Oklahoma's law, allows for the use of nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Tennessee allows for the use of the electric chair. Utah allows the firing squad to be used if the state cannot obtain lethal injection drugs 30 days before an execution.

Late Wednesday afternoon, ACLU of Mississippi released the following statement on the Attorney General's Legislative Agenda:

"The ACLU of Mississippi applauds Attorney General Hood's restorative justice efforts via creation of the re-entry pilot program, which would promote principles of restorative justice and rehabilitation. Mississippi must continue to evaluate its prison system to ensure that former offenders have a fair chance at living a crime-free life beyond bars. This will in turn reduce recidivism rates and decrease our prison population.

However, we strongly oppose his intent to exempt from the Public Records Act the identities of the state execution team as well as the lethal injection drug supplier. Citizens have a right to this public information. Too often, states have been allowed to conduct executions cloaked in secrecy and free of public and judicial scrutiny, to rely on drugs from unknown and untested sources, and to employ personnel of unknown and unverifiable qualifications - with disastrous results. This pattern should be unacceptable in a civilized society dedicated to transparency and the rule of law.

We vehemently oppose the articulated alternative barbaric means Attorney General Hood proposes. The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Furthermore, we believe that the state should not give itself the right to kill human beings - especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion."

Source: WDAM news, January 28, 2016

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