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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…

Virginia Death Row Inmates Ask Court to Keep Expanded Privileges

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia's death row inmates say they fear the expanded privileges they recently received are only temporary and are asking a judge to forbid the state from reinstating what they consider to be "dehumanizing conditions."

Prison officials overhauled Virginia's death row policies this year after several inmates sued the state. 

Officials granted the seven men awaiting execution more recreation time, among other things.

But the inmates' attorneys say unless the court intervenes, there's nothing stopping officials from rolling back those changes and reinstating restrictions that they argue amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Prison officials reject the inmates' claim that their prior treatment was unconstitutional. 

Furthermore, they've asked the judge to rule in their favor, saying a trial is unnecessary because the previous policies are no longer in effect.

Source: AP, December 30, 2015

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