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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…

Beijing Says AI Death Penalty Report Is Biased against China

A Chinese police officer lights an inmate's cigarette shortly before his execution.
A Chinese police officer lights an inmate's
cigarette shortly before his execution.
The Chinese government said Amnesty International has "biased opinions" on China and refused to comment on its death penalty report released on Wednesday, which estimates that "thousands" were executed in China last year.

Asked at a press conference about the AI report, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry Lu Kang refused to comment and said AI tends to have biased opinions on China.

According to the human rights organization, the number of death penalty executions in 2015 at 1,634 were the highest in 25 years.

The global rise in the figure was attributed to 3 countries - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan - who were responsible for 89 % of all the executions carried out in 2015, excluding China.

Data from the world's 2nd largest economy were not included as China considers this information to be a "State secret," although the AI report notes that "thousands of executions" were carried out in the Chinese territory.

AI Hong Kong's William Nee told EFE, AI asks governments across the world for information on capital punishment to prepare the report, and a "majority" responds to the request in "a professional manner."

"It is not a complicated task. It is completely hypocritical that China calls our report biased when it refuses to give us information and continues treating capital punishment figures as a State secret," he denounced.

Despite the lack of transparency, he said AI has "no doubt" that China is in top spot as the country with the highest number of executions in the world.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune, April 7, 2016

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