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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…

South Carolina: State asks for mental evaluation of Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Prosecutors say they want an independent psychological evaluation of accused church shooter Dylann Roof to rebut or confirm the findings from a pair of evaluations performed by the defense team's experts.

The request comes about a week after a judge delayed the murder trial until 2017 to give psychologists more time to draw conclusions about Roof's mental state. 

Defense attorneys estimated it would take another 6 months for the full reported to be completed.

"In the present case, recent hearings leave no doubt of the defense's intentions to present mental health evidence during the sentencing phase of this trial," Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said in the filing.

Wilson says the mental evaluation will be sealed from the State until the penalty phase begins to prevent self-incrimination by Roof.

Roof is accused of killing 9 black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. He faces a number of murder and attempted murder charges for the shooting and prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Roof also faces nearly three dozen federal hate crimes charges, but the Attorney General's office has not yet announced whether it will seek the death penalty also. As a result, that decision has caused a delay in scheduling the federal trial.

Roof's attorneys at the state and federal level have said multiple times that Roof is willing to plead guilty if prosecutors remove the possiblity of death as a sentence.

Source: WCIV news, April 21, 2016

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