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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…

Myanmar: Wa Authorities Say 2 Men Executed in Self-Ruling Region

A court in Panghsang handed down death sentences to 2 people found guilty of murder in the autonomous Wa Special Region, where on Sunday the duo were executed, according to local sources.

Zhao Guoan, who is a spokesperson from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), confirmed the court ruling and the men's execution.

"They killed other people. The court gave the death sentence to them yesterday," he told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

He said the crime and severe sentence were rare in the Wa Special Region, an autonomous zone in Shan State that is ruled by the UWSA and administers a judicial system independent of the Burmese government.

"Our court only gives the death penalty when someone killed another. It happens only sometimes here," Zhao said.

The UWSA, Burma's largest ethnic armed group, administers the Wa Special Region essentially beyond the reach of the central government in Naypyidaw.

At the national level, Burma is considered a de facto abolitionist state and has not openly carried out an execution in decades.

The UWSA-run Wa State TV aired a broadcast on Sunday that showed photos of the 2 men made to kneel before police officers, presumably before being shot dead in accordance with the Panghsang court's ruling.

A separate report, also from UWSA-affiliated media, identified the men, one being Yan Lu, a 50-year-old ethnic Wa man who was found to have killed his 2 wives while under the influence of illicit narcotics.

Li Jian Guo, a 33-year-old Chinese citizen, was found guilty in the slaying of his 18-month-old son, also reportedly under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

The weekend executions recall a similar case that played out in January in the Mong La Special Region, where a Chinese national was reportedly executed by officials apparently acting under instruction from the semiautonomous authority there. That man, too, was found guilty of murder, as well as arson. The Mong La Special region is administered by the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), a non-state armed group like the UWSA.

Source: The Irrawaddy, March 14, 2016

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