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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…

Texas: Gustavo Garcia set for execution

Gustavo Garcia in 1992
Gustavo Garcia in 1992
A Plano man is set to be executed Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his latest - and likely final - appeal.

In December 1990, then-19-year-old Gustavo Garcia shot and killed store clerk Craig Turski, according to police. He confessed to the crime after being arrested in connection to the murder of another store clerk the following month.

Police found Garcia hiding inside a store cooler after his friend, Christopher Vargas, 15, shot and killed Gregory Marin, 18. Garcia was charged in that case but never tried.

Garcia's attorneys have long contended that his written confession should have been thrown out because it did not include language that he had "knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily" waived his right to remain silent.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction in 1994, only to reinstate it during a follow-up hearing.

In 1998, Garcia joined 6 other inmates in a daring prison escape attempt. Garcia surrendered before making it off prison grounds.

Garcia was given a new sentencing hearing in 2000 after a chief psychologist with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice testified that being Hispanic made him a threat.

Garcia received another death sentence in 2001.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Garcia's latest appeal. It then refused to revisit that decision Wednesday.

Garcia will be the 3rd Texan executed this year, and the 1st one from Collin County since 2010. He will be just the 7th Collin County man executed since Texas resumed the death penalty in 1982, according to officials.

Source: starlocalmedia.com, Feb. 13, 2016

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