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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…

Juvenile protester was among Saudi mass-execution victims, new information shows

Public executions in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public executions in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
A protester who was under 18 at the time of the alleged offenses for which he was convicted was among the 47 people executed in a single day in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, research by international human rights organization Reprieve has found.

Ali al Ribh was arrested while at school on February 12th, 2012 due to his involvement in activities calling for reform between February and October 2011 – when he was just 17 years old.

Ali – whose date of birth was December 2nd, 1993 – should therefore have been treated as a juvenile by the Saudi legal system. His execution on January 2nd this year was a breach of the absolute prohibition on the execution of juvenile offenders, and illegal under international law. The Saudi authorities did not inform his family of the execution and are keeping the location of his burial secret.

Ali’s execution will raise concerns about the position of other juveniles convicted for protest-related offences in the Kingdom. Dawoud al Mahroon, Ali al Nimr and Abdullah al Zaher remain under sentence of death for alleged offences which took place when they were aged 17, 17 and 15, respectively.

The British Government has said that it has raised their cases with the Saudi authorities and does not expect them to be executed. However, Reprieve is calling for renewed action in light of the fact that the Saudi authorities have executed at least one juvenile protester already this year.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: "Ali al Ribh's tragic case shows that the Saudi authorities are quite happy to execute juvenile protesters if they think no one is looking. Ali was seized by police at his school and subsequently executed, even though he was a child when the alleged protest offences were committed.

"Abdullah al Zaher, Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon - all of whom were sentenced to death as children - remain imprisoned and could be executed at any time, without warning. Until the Saudi Government officially commutes their sentences, the sword will continue to hang over their heads. Britain must redouble its efforts to convince the Saudi Government to commute Abdullah, Ali and Dawoud's sentences – and those of any other juveniles facing execution – before it is too late."

Source: Reprieve, January 24, 2016

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