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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…

The Use of the Death Penalty Is at Its Highest in 25 Years, a New Report Says

More people were executed worldwide in 2015 than at any point in the last 25 years, according to a new report by global human rights group Amnesty International released on Wednesday.

At least 1,634 people were put to death across 25 different countries, a 54% increase from the number of executions recorded the previous year. Even without the figure for China (Beijing treats its executions as a state secret), Amnesty said last year's total represented the highest it has recorded since 1989.

The report also showed that nearly 90% of all recorded use of the death penalty was accounted for by just 3 countries - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, with the latter reinstating capital punishment in December 2014 following a 7-year moratorium. The 3 nations fall between China, which Amnesty estimates executes thousands annually, and the U.S., which rounds out the top 5 with 28 people put to death in 2015.

Amnesty added that the report includes only the executions they were able to verify, with the actual number in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia, and Egypt likely higher than their respective confirmed totals of 977, 158, 26, 25, and 22.

At the same time, the report observed that most of the world is renouncing the death penalty. Madagascar, Fiji, the Republic of Congo and Suriname abolished the death penalty for all crimes last year, bringing the total number of countries that have done so to 102. As of Dec. 31, 2015, Amnesty said, the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty "in law or practice" stood at 140.

"Thankfully, countries that execute belong to a small and increasingly isolated minority," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General, said in a statement. "The majority of states have turned their back on the death penalty."

Source: TIME.com, April 6, 2016

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