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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…

Iran’s Hard-Line Press Adds to Bounty on Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie
TEHRAN — A group of hard-line Iranian news media organizations says it has raised $600,000 to add to a bounty for the killing of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.

Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 calling for Mr. Rushdie to be killed because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which the ayatollah found to be blasphemous and insulting toward Muslims. Mr. Rushdie has since then been living largely out of sight and under the protection of bodyguards.

The semiofficial Fars news agency, one of the organizations involved, reported that the new reward money was gathered during a trade fair called the Islamic Republic’s Digital Media Exhibition. It quoted the secretary of the exhibition saying that the $600,000 had been announced last week to mark the anniversary of the 1989 fatwa.

The Iranian government distanced itself from calls for Mr. Rushdie’s death under former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who declared in 1998 that the fatwa had ended. But the religious authorities said it could not be withdrawn by anyone other than Ayatollah Khomeini, who died four months after issuing it. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2005 that the fatwa remained valid.

The decree had already put a considerable price on Mr. Rushdie’s head: A religious organization called the 15 Khordad Foundation initially offered a $2.7 million reward to anyone carrying out the fatwa, then increased it to $3.3 million in 2012. The new money, bringing the total bounty to nearly $4 million, came from 40 news outlets listed by Fars, which said that it had contributed $30,000.

Iranian hard-line organizations tend to make symbolic gestures involving the Rushdie fatwa every year around its anniversary, Feb. 14. Whether the bounty really would be paid is unclear.


Source: The New York Times, Feb. 24, 2016

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