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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…

Ohio: Mother of death row inmate dies after his failed attempts to give her a kidney

Ronald Phillips
Ronald Phillips
The mother of a death row inmate has died after attempts by the inmate to donate his kidney to save her life.

Donna Phillips of Akron died Jan. 11 at age 68. Her son, Ronald Phillips, 42, is next on the list of Ohio death row inmates to die by lethal injection. His execution is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2017, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The convicted murderer grabbed national headlines in 2014 after the state blocked him from donating his kidney to his ailing mother.

The state had given Phillips a deadline to donate his organ, and he did not meet the deadline.

Ronald Phillips was convicted in Akron of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993, when he was 19 years old.

A spokesperson for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said Phillips will not be permitted to attend his mother’s funeral.

“Death row inmates are not eligible for funeral visits,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Phillips’ execution had been delayed so the state could allow him the time to donate his organ. His execution was then put on hold on Jan. 16, 2014, the day of the botched lethal injection death of Ohio convict Dennis McGuire. In that case, McGuire struggled and gasped for several minutes before dying after he was injected with a combination of drugs used for the first time anywhere in the United States.

Phillips had fought in court for decades to block his execution. His attorneys argued he should not be put to death because his upbringing led him to believe violent behavior was acceptable and normal. He accused his late father, William Phillips Sr., of sexually, physically and verbally abusing him repeatedly during his childhood.

Source: ohio.com, Nick Glunt, Beacon Journal staff writer, January 18, 2016

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