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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…

Obama asks lawmakers to lift obstacles to closing prison at Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Military Prison
Guantanamo Military Prison
President Obama on Tuesday urged lawmakers to lift obstacles to closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as he presented to Congress a long-awaited roadmap for shuttering a facility he said symbolized the excesses that following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“This is about closing a chapter in our history ,” said Obama, flanked by Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, in remarks at the White House. “It reflects the lessons that we’ve learned since 9/11, lessons that need to guide our nation going forward.”

But Obama’s blueprint, which provided some detail to earlier White House plans to move up to 60 prisoners to the mainland United States for trial or detention,was met with immediate condemnation from Capitol Hill.

Previewing the plan earlier in the morning, officials said the document submitted to Congress outlined costs associated with housing prisoners in facilities within the United States. Officials said 30 to 60 detainees were expected to be brought to U.S. facilities if the plan is approved. Some of them would continue through slow-moving military commissions; others probably would be detained indefinitely without trial.

The Obama administration also is resettling overseas other prisoners, who are deemed to pose little security risk. Since he took office in 2009, Obama has resettled 147 Guantanamo prisoners overseas.

The prison now houses 91 detainees, down from a high of nearly 800 under former President George. W. Bush. Of those remaining, 35 have been cleared for transfer to allied nations. Ten are in some stage of a military trial process.

But Obama cannot act without support from Congress. To allow the closure plan to move forward, lawmakers would have to alter current laws that prohibit the administration from spending any money on bringing detainees to the United States.


Source: The Washington Post, Missy Ryan and Adam Goldman, February 23, 2016

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