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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…

Hope of sentence cut for Bali Nine after penal code revision

Matthew Norman
Matthew Norman
The six remaining Bali Nine drug-smugglers jailed for life in Indonesia may soon be looking at the prospect of reduced prison sentences. On the eve of their 11th anniversary behind bars, the convicted drug couriers have a ray of hope in the form of a revised penal code, which is slated to go before ­Indonesia’s parliament in a few months.

The draft revision, viewed by The Weekend Australian, offers the prospect of reduced life sentences. If it is approved, a new legal framework would facilitate well-behaved prisoners who have served 17 years of their life terms being released on parole.

The president also has authority to grant remissions or clemency at any time.

The six Bali Nine couriers — Martin Stephens, 39; Matthew Norman, 29; Michael Czugaj, Si Yi Chen and Scott Rush, all 30; and Tan Duc Than Nguyen, 32 — have been desperate for fixed terms to enable them to earn remissions and early release.

Only inmates not serving life or death sentences are entitled to remissions at present, although there is also scope in the draft for well-behaved inmates facing the death penalty to be downgraded to life or 20 years.

Bali Nine ringleaders Myuran Suku­maran and Andrew Chan were executed on April 29 last year for their parts in the 2005 plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia.

Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Yesterday Norman, who has monthly tests to prove he is drug-free, conveyed from Kerobokan jail that there was fresh hope. He has been applying to downgrade his sentence to 20 years for the past five.

Newcastle woman Renae Lawrence, 38, the one female and only member of the Bali Nine with a fixed 20-year term, is scheduled for parole, possibly next year after numerous­ remissions for good behaviour. Her scheduled release date was 2026.

After being on the backburner for about 18 months, the draft revision is the first tangible hope the six have of gaining fixed terms. All their legal avenues have been exhausted.

Under current legislation, drug convicts are ineligible for reductio­ns. It is unknown if President Joko Widodo would downgrade such sentences. In late 2014, before two batches of executions including Chan and Sukumaran, he said Indonesia was facing a drugs scourge that needed “shock therapy”.

Stephens’s former lawyer Wirawan Adnan believes Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly will revise the law. “So there is hope,’’ he said.


Source: The Australian, D. Cassrels, April 2, 2016 (local time)

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