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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…

Taiwan: Chang Ho-ling escapes execution

The High Court yesterday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence handed down to Chang Ho-ling, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and 2 daughters in a case that has wound through the courts for 10 years.

The ruling has sparked controversy and protests from the victims' relatives and the judiciary, along with members of the public, who believe life imprisonment is too lenient.

Chang, now 49, was found guilty of using ether to asphyxiate his wife, Tsai Ting-yu, and their 2 young daughters at their home in New Taipei City in 2006, then tampering with the crime scene to make it look like suicide through gas poisoning. After a forensic investigation pointed to murder, Chang confessed.

Chang had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman surnamed Su, who reportedly advised Chang to do away with his wife and daughters to start a new life with her, and in an effort to please his new lover, Chang filmed the killing of his wife for Su to watch, the courts found.

As the case went through the courts, judges upheld the original ruling of 2 death sentences for Chang for the murders of his daughters and 1 life prison term for murdering his wife.

However, the latest ruling commuted the death sentence because judges said there remains a possibility of Chang's rehabilitation, citing a psychiatric report.

The mother of victim Tsai Ting-yu spoke out yesterday to condemn the judiciary.

"The judges were too lenient on Chang," she said. "Before, the ruling was always the death sentence. Now all of a sudden it has changed to a life sentence. We cannot accept it and we will appeal this decision."

She broke down in tears when talking to reporters.

"For 10 years, I have attended all the trial hearings. It has drained my mind and taken a toll on my failing health. I cry every day when I think about my daughter and my granddaughters. The sentencing was too lenient. The courts have not given us justice," she said.

Lin Hung-sung, the prosecutor who pursued the case and brought the charges against Chang, also said it was not right that Chang should escape the death penalty.

"I felt very bad today when I heard the ruling. Even I cannot accept it, so how can the victims' families accept this decision?" Lin said. "The ruling must be appealed so justice can be served."

Source: Taipei Times, April 29, 2016

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