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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…

Delaware capital murder trials and hearings halted while state justices mull death penalty law

A Superior Court judge has halted all trials and penalty hearings in capital murder cases while Delaware's Supreme Court mulls the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law.

The order was issued Monday President Judge Jan Jurden, head of the Superior Court system.

Last week, the Supreme Court accepted several questions submitted by a Superior Court judge regarding the roles of judges and juries in Delaware death penalty cases. 

Those questions were prompted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Florida's death sentencing scheme was unconstitutional because a jury, not a judge, must find each fact necessary to impose a death sentence.

Delaware's sentencing scheme is similar to Florida's.

Meanwhile, a bill to abolish Delaware's death penalty was defeated in the state House last week.

Source: Associated Press, Feb. 1, 2016


First State freezes all death penalty cases

Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden is halting all 39 of Delaware's pending death penalty cases as the state's highest court weighs the system's constitutionality.

The official stay from Jurden comes just days after another Superior Court judge asked the Delaware Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the state's capital punishment program.

Part of the First State's system resembles Florida's, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional last month.

In Delaware, juries have to unanimously find at least 1 aggravating factor to recommend a death sentence. Then, a judge weighs all relevant information that came out at trial before either sentencing that person to die or giving them life in prison.

All but 1 Supreme Court justice found putting more power in the hands of judges unconstitutional in their recent ruling.

State lawmakers in the House rejected a bill that would overturn capital punishment in Delaware altogether last week.

The Public Defender's Office and the state will file arguments to the Delaware Supreme Court in the coming weeks, with a ruling expected before the summer.

Source: Delaware Public Media, Feb. 1, 2016

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