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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…

Life after Myuran and Andrew: The legacy of the executed Bali nine

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran
It is a year since Bali nine members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed in Indonesia, but they are not forgotten.

One of the life-affirming legacies of executed Bali nine members Myuran Sukumaran​ and Andrew Chan can be found on a crowded footpath in Kuta.

On a stool outside a jewellery shop, Billy Surya Adji sits sketching in his makeshift B​Billy gallery, oblivious to the snarl of traffic along Legian Kaja Street.

Billy met Chan and Sukumaran inside Bali's Kerobokan jail, where he was serving more than four years for possessing crystal meth and marijuana, in 2013.

Sukumaran persuaded him to join drawing classes in the BengKer (workshop), an oasis of art the man once known as the "ringleader" of the Bali nine heroin smugglers had helped establish behind bars.

"When I started focusing on painting, I stopped [taking drugs] completely, because Myuran hated drug users," Billy says. "He would get so angry he would throw stuff."

When Billy was clean, he started playing tennis, where he met Chan, who was involved in the jail's church and sport activities.

"Andrew was a jokester. He would taunt us during tennis, saying 'you will lose, you will lose, you will lose' … and then he would end up losing himself."

Billy says he would probably still be using and selling drugs if he hadn't started painting and playing tennis.

Now, he works as an artist, with commissions coming from passers-by and his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

"I believe the reason I am clean is first the painting, Myuran's influence and the tennis."

Just after midnight on April 29, 2015, Chan and Sukumaran were among eight prisoners tied to a post and shot dead on the penal island of Nusakambangan​, known as Indonesia's Alcatraz.

Myuran Sukumaran
Myuran Sukumaran
Nine years earlier, they had been sentenced to death for their role in a foiled attempt to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin from Indonesia to Australia.

Chan's widow, Febyanti Herewila​, recalled the men died singing 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), the same song they had sung at their wedding less than 72 hours earlier.

"They all managed to finish the first verse and the second halfway and then they took him," she said at Chan's memorial service. "Andrew managed to end it well."

The men's Indonesian lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis​, would later describe it as the darkest moment of his life. "I failed. I lost." he tweeted at 4am.

Todung, Indonesia's most famous human rights lawyer, has been fighting for the abolition of the death penalty in Indonesia since 1979.

Until the bitter end, he had been hopeful President Joko Widodo​ would grant mercy. "My clients changed … they did not deserve to die," he says.


Source: the Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield, April 24, 2016

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