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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…

South Carolina: 600 potential jurors to be called for state's case against Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The Charleston County Clerk of Court will call 600 potential jurors as attorneys work to seat a jury for the state's case against Emanuel AME Church mass shooting suspect Dylann Roof.

The pool of potential jurors will report on June 28, some 2 weeks before the start of the July 11 trial, for questionnaires and basic qualifications. Then, the jurors not excluded in that initial round will report to court starting July 11 in groups of 20 until a full jury is seated for Roof's trial.

Meanwhile, attorneys are finalizing the questionnaires.

The court told attorneys in a separate filing that any changes to the jury survey must be submitted by Feb. 15. Two day later, attorneys have to complete any motions related to the surveys.

In June, the court will let the defense and the state know which jurors can be excused, adding that a hearing could be held on the excusing of jurors on June 13.

Attorneys have to file all pre-trial motions by June 14. The hearings on the pre-trial motions will be held over a 3-day period starting June 28.

And that will lead everyone involved into the start of Roof's trial.

Roof is accused of fatally shooting nine Emanuel AME Church parishioners in a racially motivated attack on June 17, 2015. Among the dead was the church's pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

Roof sat in a bible study for about an hour before opening fire on the group, investigators say.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Roof. His attorneys have said Roof is willing to enter a guilty plea if the state removes the possiblity of a death sentence.

Roof is also facing federal hate crime charges for the shooting, and that trial will commence once the state trial has concluded.

Source: WCIV news, January 28, 2016

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