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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…

Legislators attempt to repeal death penalty in South Dakota

Custer State Park, South Dakota
Custer State Park, South Dakota
2 dozen state legislators have sponsored a bill to repeal South Dakota's death penalty.

Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, a retired circuit court judge, and Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, serve as the prime sponsors on Senate Bill 94 to strike the death penalty from state law. 

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by a total of 15 Democrats and 9 Republicans.

A Class A felony is currently the only capital offense in South Dakota and 18 people have been executed since South Dakota became a state in 1877, according to the state Department of Corrections.

The most recent executions in the state occurred in Oct. 2012, when Eric Robert and Donald Moeller were executed in Sioux Falls by lethal injection. 

Robert was executed for the homicide of Senior Correctional Officer Ron Johnson while Moeller received a lethal injection for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in 1990. 

There are currently 3 South Dakota inmates who have been sentenced to death.

If approved, the bill would eliminate capital punishment for the law, but Class A felons would no longer be eligible for parole. 

The bill would also strike sections 3 and 4 of the law, which offer instructions to jurors in cases where the death penalty may be authorized.

The bill, which was introduced Tuesday, was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee, and if approved, South Dakota would become the 20th state to abolish the death penalty.

A similar bill, 2015's Senate Bill 121, was deferred by the Senate State Affairs Committee in a 7-2 vote.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, Januarty 29, 2016

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