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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…

Idaho: Northwest killer denied death sentence appeal

Joseph Edward Duncan III
Joseph Edward Duncan III
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied hearing an appeal of a man who was sentenced to death for kidnapping, torturing and killing a young northern Idaho boy after killing several of members of his family.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Wednesday that the high court had made their decision earlier this week.

Joseph Edward Duncan III faces the death penalty for the 2005 murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene. 

He also faces several life sentences for the murder of 3 family members and the kidnapping of his then-8-year-old sister.

10-year-old Anthony Marinez’s murder had gone unsolved until Duncan confessed after he was arrested at a Denny’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in July 2005, with 8-year-old Shasta Groene, six weeks after he kidnapped the girl and her brother Dylan. He had killed their mother, her boyfriend and her 13-year-old son.

Dylan’s remains were found at a remote campsite in the Lolo National Forest in Montana. Duncan told investigators he had an “epiphany” that stopped him from killing Shasta; that statement has been a focus of the mental competency proceedings.

Though he has never been charged, Duncan also has confessed to killing two girls in Seattle in 1996, just after he was released from prison after raping a boy at gunpoint when he was 17.

He was facing child molestation charges in Minnesota when he abandoned his apartment in Fargo, N.D, in May 2005, where he studied computer science at North Dakota State University.

At the time, Duncan represented himself at his sentencing hearing but later waived his right to appeal. 

He has since changed his mind and his defense attorneys say he wasn't mentally competent to waive his rights.

The high court's decision affirms U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge's 2013 finding that Duncan was competent to waive his appeal.

No execution date has been set, and Duncan's attorneys may still seek other post-conviction relief.

Source: Associated Press, March 3, 2016

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