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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 Board of Pardons and Paroles turns down John Battaglia's clemency petition

John Battaglia
John Battaglia
HUNTSVILLE — The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has turned down a clemency petition from a Dallas man set to die this week for fatally shooting his two young daughters nearly 15 years ago.

Board spokesman Raymond Estrada says the board voted 7-0 Monday, refusing to recommend that John David Battaglia’s death sentence be commuted to life in prison and denying his request for a reprieve from his scheduled Wednesday evening execution in Huntsville.

Battaglia, 60, was convicted and condemned for the May 2001 slayings of his daughters, 9-year-old Faith and 6-year-old Liberty, at his Dallas apartment. 

The girls’ mother, Battaglia’s ex-wife, was on the phone with him and heard the gunshots and cry of the older daughter.

Battaglia still has appeals in the federal courts seeking to block his punishment.

Source: The Associated Press, March 28, 2016


Fort Worth Man On Death Row Loses Supreme Court Appeal

HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeal from a Fort Worth man on death row for smothering an 89-year-old man and robbing him of some $6,000 12 years ago.

The high court, without comment, ruled Monday in the case of 36-year-old Tilon Carter. His appeals have focused on whether his Tarrant County trial attorneys were deficient and whether faulty instructions were given to trial jurors.

Carter was condemned for the 2004 robbery and slaying of James Tomlin. Evidence showed Tomlin, a retired Bell Helicopter worker, kept cash in containers scattered around his home.

Prosecutors portrayed Carter as a longtime criminal and also tied him to a fatal shooting at a drug house.

He does not yet have an execution date.

Source: The Associated Press, March 28, 2016

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