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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…

Khartoum sentences 22 South Sudanese to death

Khartoum, Sudan
Khartoum, Sudan
An anti-terrorism court in Khartoum has sentenced 22 South Sudanese nationals to death and 3 others to life in prison on Wednesday for belonging to a militant group in Darfur.

"The judge sentenced them to death by hanging on charges of terrorism, fighting the state, bearing arms against the state and undermining the constitutional order," Mahjoub Dawoud, defense attorney, told Reuters.

The defendants belong to the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group based in Darfur that took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003, complaining that their region was being marginalized.

The group, led by Bakhit Abdul Karim (Dabjo), signed a peace agreement with the Khartoum government in 2013.

Shortly after the agreement, the group handed in its weapons to the government and in return the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, pardoned members of the group.

However, the presidential pardon did not include the 25 South Sudanese nationals. The government considered them foreign fighters and brought them to trial for bearing arms against Sudan.

Lawyers of the defendants said they will appeal the court decision next week, calling the Sudanese authorities to treat their clients as prisoners of war.

Sudan regularly accuses its neighbor of backing insurgents in its Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

South Sudan, which split away from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war fueled by ethnicity and oil, dismisses the allegations and accuses Khartoum of arming militias in its territory.

Source: Reuters, April 9, 2016

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