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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…

Tunisians handed death penalty for murdering policeman

Tunis (AFP) - Three Tunisians have been sentenced to death for murdering an unarmed young policeman as he returned home after his shift, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

A fourth man, who is on the run, was sentenced to 22 years in jail for "inciting and helping to commit terrorist crimes", in reference to the January murder.

The four were convicted Tuesday of cutting the throat of the 23-year-old policeman in El Fahs about 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of Tunis.

Following the murder, the interior ministry issued a directive allowing police officers to keep their weapons after their work day ended.

Aged 21 to 26, the three condemned to death were also given prison sentences of between 10 and 22 years for belonging to a terrorist group and incitement to commit terrorist crimes.

No further details were given on the circumstances of the murder, and it was not clear whether those convicted had been charged with belonging to any specific group.

Tunisia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1991, and it was unclear how many years the convicts would serve.

The three were also ordered to pay 20,000 dinars (around 9,000 euros/$9,800) to their victim's parents and a total of 25,000 dinars to his five siblings.

Islamist militants have killed dozens of police and soldiers since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

This year alone, the Islamic State group claimed attacks on the national museum in Tunis and a popular resort hotel, killing a total of 59 tourists, and the suicide bombing of a bus carrying presidential guards, in which 12 of them died.

Source: Agence France-Presse, December 31, 2015

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