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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…

Iran regime executes man despite appeal by rights group

Rashid Kouhi
Rashid Kouhi
Iran's fundamentalist regime on Saturday executed student Rashid Kouhi despite an appeal by Amnesty International for the sentence to be halted.

Mr. Kouhi, 36, was executed earlier in the day on Saturday in Rasht's Lakan Prison in Gilan Province, northern Iran, sources said.

On Friday Amnesty International said Mr. Kouhi's scheduled execution demonstrated the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for the right to life and their determination to continue with a staggering execution spree that saw nearly 1000 people put to death last year.

Family members of Rashid Kouhi received a call from prison authorities on Thursday informing them that they should go to Lakan Prison to have a final meeting with him on Friday before his execution the following day.

Rashid Kouhi was arrested at a checkpoint in Roudbar, Gilan province on August 24, 2011.

"The officers who stopped him conducted a search of his bag where they found 800 grams of crystal meth. He was a student at the time. He was tried and sentenced to death following a grossly unfair trial by a Revolutionary Court in Roudbar in February 2012," according to Amnesty International.

Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said on Friday: "The imminent execution of Rashid Kouhi days after Iran was revealed to be the world's 2nd highest executioner in 2015 in Amnesty International's annual death penalty report, highlights the authorities' determination to maintain their horrifying rate of executions."

"The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of Rashid Kouhi immediately. The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is a blatant violation of international human rights law. Instead of stepping up their rampant execution spree the Iranian authorities must take steps to abolish this ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment."

The human rights groups said: "The court's verdict, which has been reviewed by Amnesty International, is less than a page long and does not contain adequate reasoning. He did not have access to a lawyer during questioning and met a state appointed lawyer for the 1st time during his trial. He was held in Roudbar for 2 years before being taken to Lakan Prison in Rasht."

Rashid Kouhi was denied the right to appeal his death sentence.

"It is appalling that Rashid Kouhi has been denied the right to an appeal which is a fundamental element of the right to a fair trial. The Iranian authorities must urgently halt his execution and give him a chance to appeal his death sentence in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty. Failing to do so will be an irreversible injustice," said Said Boumedouha.

The human rights group said on its website: "At least 977 people were executed in Iran in 2015."

Source: NCR-Iran, April 10, 2016

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