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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…

Number of crimes in Japan falls to postwar low in 2015

Tokyo street
TOKYO — The number of crimes in Japan in 2015 hit a postwar low, the National Police Agency said Thursday, citing an increase in security cameras as well as raised public awareness of crime prevention.

Overall penal code violations decreased 9.3% from the previous year to 1,099,048, falling below the previous record of 1,190,549 set in 1973, the agency said in a preliminary report.

All categories of crimes marked declines from 2014.

The number of thefts, which account for more than 70% of crimes in Japan, dropped to 807,605 from 897,259. Murders fell to 933 from 1,054 with fraud cases down to 39,439 from 41,523.

The crime clearance rate, or the ratio of cases solved by police to total reported crimes, improved to 32.5% from 30.6%, with the ratio for murder and other violent crimes rising to 72.3% from 68.2%, topping 70% for the first time in 16 years.

By age of those subject to police action, the number of juveniles aged between 14 and 19 sharply fell to 39,501 from 142,594 in 2002, when the total number of penal code violations peaked.

That of the elderly aged 65 or older, meanwhile, nearly doubled to 47,643 from the 2002 figure of 24,241, reflecting Japan’s graying society.

Source: Japan Times, January 15, 2016

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