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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…

Missouri House Budget committee approves breaking out fund for executions

Missourians and future legislators would be able to see where in the state budget is the money that pays for executions, under a change approved by the House Budget Committee.

The Committee approved putting money for Missouri's executions in a separate budget line - it used to come out of an expenses and equipment fund. The change means now it can be seen how much the state sets aside to pay for executions.

It also means future lawmakers who oppose the death penalty could propose pulling funding for it, though as long as a Republican majority controls the legislature such an effort would be unlikely to pass.

It would cover cash payments to the maker of the drug used in Missouri's lethal injection process and to the anonymous members of the execution team, and potential IRS penalties the state could incur for not giving those team members tax forms to report that payment.

It was sponsored by Representative Jeremy LaFaver (D-Kansas City). He opposes the death penalty, but says this is just about transparency.

"On something this important - taking a human life away from somebody - it is important enough for the taxpayers of this state to know this is the line in the budget that pays for it," said LaFaver.

The change received bipartisan support, including from several Republicans who support the death penalty.

Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) said he had no problem it.

"I'm always in favor of breaking things out so it is more transparent and we know how money's being spent. I don't see any harm being done by this," said Fitzpatrick. "And quite frankly if there are penalties from the IRS there's a line to pay for them now."

The committee put $40,000 into that fund - enough to pay for 1 execution.

Source: missourinet.com, March 1, 2016

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