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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…

New bill aiming to make death penalty easier to impose in Colorado

6 Republican lawmakers in Colorado are pushing to pass a bill that will remove the unanimous voting requirement for death sentences. If passed, the law could make it easier to impose death penalties during court proceedings.

The bill, called SB 64, is sponsored by State Representatives Kevin Lundberg, John Cooke, Vicki Marble, Laura Woods and Kevin Grantham. It is still awaiting to be discussed in the state's House of Representatives.

In the current judicial system, the jury can only allow a death sentence to be ruled by the court if all 12 of its members agree on a unanimous vote. With the proposed law, the politicians are aiming to change this rule and reduce the number of votes to 9 instead of 12, The Denver Channel has learned.

According to 9News, SB 64 was drafted by its sponsors in response to the mass shooting that occurred in 2012 during the midnight screening of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" in a theater in Aurora, Colorado. The incident left 12 people dead.

The gunman, who was identified by previous reports as James Eagan Holmes, was supposed to receive death penalty. Instead, he receive a life sentence because the votes of the jury members were divided. For the sponsors of the bill, this law would empower the court to lay down the most serious form of punishment for heinous crimes.

However, the chances of the bill passing seem a bit dim given the current status of Colorado's House of Representatives. Currently, majority of the lawmakers serving the state are Democrats and most of them are against capital punishment. One of them, Representative Jovan Melton of Aurora, noted that the state should not consider loosening the requirement for death penalty.

"[The death penalty] really is an archaic practice that needs to go away," he said according to 9News. "By reducing the threshold and making it easier, we're just doing the wrong thing."

Source: lawyerherald.com, January 20, 2016

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