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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…

Oklahoma Inmate On Death Row Dies Of Natural Causes

Sammy Van Woudenberg
Sammy Van Woudenberg
McALESTER, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says a prisoner on death row for a 1983 murder in Muskogee died over the weekend of natural causes at the state penitentiary in McAlester.

Following a trial in 1984, Sammy Van Woudenberg was sentenced to death for the strangulation death of Mark Berry of Durant in the Muskogee County jail.

Van Woudenberg was serving a life sentence out of Tulsa County for a 1972 murder when he escaped from prison in 1983. He was captured a month later and was taken to the Muskogee County jail, where he killed Berry.

Berry was in jail for stealing government property, but Van Woudenberg and two other men were convinced he was a snitch and strangled him with a wire, hung him in the shower and tried to make it look like a suicide.

Van Woudenberg and one other were sentenced to death. The third man got 35 years.

One man was executed, but in 2001 a judge decided Van Woudenberg couldn't be executed because he was mentally ill. The just said he could be executed if he got better, but that never happened.

Van Woudenberg was 64.

Source: newson6.com, March 8, 2016

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