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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…

Missouri Conservatives Urge Legislature to Repeal Death Penalty

For the first time in decades, a Missouri Senate committee is set to consider a Republican bill to repeal the death penalty in Missouri. A recently-formed group of conservative grassroots leaders applauded Sen. Paul Wieland (R - Imperial), the bill sponsor, for his fiscal responsibility and commitment to protecting innocent life from conception to natural death.

"Sen. Wieland is the true pro-life leader in the Jefferson City," said Daniel Blassi, the President of Students for Life at Southeast Missouri State University and member of Missouri Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. "We may aim to execute only the guilty, but in practice the death penalty puts too many innocent lives at risk."

Since last year's near-execution of Kimber Edwards, a death row inmate whose sentence was commuted after the State's key witness recanted his testimony, a growing number of conservatives have begun questioning whether the government can effectively carry out capital punishment. In October, the National Association of Evangelicals approved a resolution to change its 1973 resolution which favored the death penalty. Though the NAE's new standing policy does not completely reverse their prior position, it does acknowledges the growing number of evangelicals who oppose the death penalty and increasing concerns with its application.

The conservative case is straightforward: the death penalty is at odds with the core conservative values of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and value for life. "Heinous criminals deserve swift justice, but it's difficult to justify a government program that siphons millions of dollars from Missouri taxpayers despite the lack of evidence that it deters crime," said Jake Buxton, Chair of the Truman State University College Republicans. "Our State can't afford the death penalty as it stands."

"In my mind, it is impossible to be an advocate for liberty and the death penalty at the same time," said Anthony Vibbard, President Emeritus of the University of Missouri Federalist Society. "Young conservatives across Missouri are joining together on this and I firmly believe that decades from now, our children will be appalled that we once condoned murder as punishment."

The Senate hearing will be held Tuesday, January 19, at 3 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 1 of the State Capitol.

Source: Missouri Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (MADP), January 15, 2016

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