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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…

Utah: Death penalty bill would include fatal child trafficking

Utah's House of Representatives
Utah's House of Representatives
Salt Lake City — (KUTV) A new death penalty bill is making its way through the Utah Legislature.

Rep. Paul Ray, who made waves last year with his successful bill reinstating the firing squad, is sponsoring House Bill 136. It would make aggravated human trafficking a capital offense if a child dies in the process of being trafficked for forced labor or sex.

"If we really want a deterrent to it, you have to take this step," Ray told 2News.

Ray's bill would open the death penalty to anyone who was involved in trafficking that child - not just the person responsible for the child's death.

"Whether you're the one that abducted the child or coerced the child or you're the one that was pimping the child at the time, you're potentially going to face the death penalty," said Ray.

It's unclear how many times - if any - a child trafficking death has actually happened in Utah. Ray couldn't cite a case, and the Utah Attorney General's office said it's hard to know because of the many ways trafficking can be prosecuted.

Ray's bill has been read on the House floor and has been referred to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. But it's also attracting some stiff opposition.

"It's too bad that he's deciding to go in this direction," said Marina Lowe of the ACLU of Utah. "I think that increasingly there's a lot of momentum around the idea of pulling back on the death penalty and not expanding."

The ACLU opposes the death penalty anyway, but also questions whether this particular bill - if passed - could still stand.

"Traditionally, the Supreme Court has reserved the death penalty, capital punishment, only for the most heinous of crimes," Lowe said. "Something short of murder, I think, it's questionable whether that would be appropriate."

Nine inmates are currently on death row in Utah. The state hasn't executed anyone since 2010, and none are scheduled as of now, according to the Utah Department of Corrections.

Source: 2KUTV.com, Daniel Woodruff, January 29, 2016

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