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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…

Virginia legislature approves bill reimplimenting electric chair

The Virginia General Assembly on Friday approved a bill [HB 815 materials] that will allow for the implementation of the electric chair if lethal injection drugs are not readily available. 

Virginia has faced issues with obtaining lethal injection drugs as some pharmaceutical companies have declined to supply the necessary materials. 

According to the new bill, the Virginia Department of Corrections must make "reasonable efforts" to obtain lethal injection materials before utilizing the electric chair. 

The bill will now be sent to Governor Terry McAuliffe desk to be signed or vetoed. 

Currently, Virgina has 7 inmates on death row.

Capital punishment remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. 

In February the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected a Georgia death row inmate's legal challenge to the death penalty. In January Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood stated that he plans to ask lawmakers to approve the firing squad, electrocution or nitrogen gas as alternate methods of execution if the state prohibits lethal injection. 

The US Supreme Court in January ruled in Kansas v. Carr that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors.

Source: The Jurist, March 14, 2016

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