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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…

Iran Judge to Drug Defendant: 'If you're innocent then you'll go to heaven after you're hanged'

Reza Hosseini
Reza Hosseini
Iran Human Rights (May 12 2016): Iran Human Rights has obtained a phone interview conducted by the human rights news site, HRANA, with Azadeh Geravand, the wife of Reza Hosseini, a man who was recently executed by Iranian authorities on drug charges.

Reza Hosseini, 34, who resided in the city of Kuhdasht (located in the province of Lorestan, western Iran), was reportedly among four prisoners hanged to death on Tuesday May 3 at Karaj's Ghezel Hesar Prison (northern Iran). 

In an unfair trial that reportedly lasted only a couple of minutes, a notorious revolutionary court Judge by the name of "Tayerani" sentenced Hosseini to death on drug related charges without presenting a single piece of evidence to support the claims. 

According to official court documents obtained by Iran Human Rights, Hosseini never pled guilty in court or accepted the charges against him.

Iran Human Rights has also obtained a copy of a will Hosseini wrote before his execution where he makes reference to a remark the presiding Judge on his case file made to him in court: "If you are innocent, then you will go to heaven after you are hanged."

Reza Hosseini was first detained in Fashafaviye, Tehran's central prison, before his transfer to Ghezel Hesar. "In the first 70 days of his imprisonment Reza was subjected to torture and interrogations. We were not allowed to visit him until he was transferred to Ghezel Hesar Prison. But, even then, we weren't granted our first visit with him until after 11 months of imprisonment," says Geravand in the phone interview.

Before his execution Hosseini was reportedly transferred to solitary confinement. As he was being transferred, a prison guard reportedly lent his phone to Hosseini in order for him to call his wife and inform her of his imminent execution. "When we realized his death sentence was to be carried out, me and Reza's mother somehow managed to drive 840 kilometres to Ghezel Hesar Prison to see him for the last time. But, once we arrived, the authorities did not allow us to visit him. Instead, they hurled insults at us."

Geravand insists her husband was innocent. "The narcotics mentioned in Reza's case file were discovered by authorities in our neighbour's home whom we don't even know. The only reason why Reza was arrested is because he got into a physical altercation with the authorities in the parking lot of our residence," she says.

According to Geravand, the Prosecutor on her husband's case file had reassured the family that Hosseini was indeed innocent and would be exonerated. However, in a trial that reportedly lasted two minutes, Judge Tayerani allegedly offered to help Hosseini if he agreed to plead guilty. "My husband had asked the Judge, 'Why should I plead guilty if I am innocent?' And that's when the Judge responded: If you are innocent, then you will go to heaven after you are hanged."

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 12, 2016


Two Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran

Iran Human Rights (May 11 2016): Two prisoners with murder charges were reportedly hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (northern Iran) on Wednesday May 11.

One of the prisoners has been identified as Reza Cheshmenour, the identity of the other prisoner is not known at this time. According to close sources, these two prisoners were among 12 who were transferred to solitary confinement at this prison on Saturday May 7 in preparation for their executions.

The other 10 prisoners were returned to their cells after they received an extension on their execution order or received consent for a suspension by the plaintiffs on their case files, say close sources.

Iranian official sources, including state-run media and the Judiciary, have been silent on these two executions.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 11, 2016


19-Year-Old Prisoner Hanged in Northeastern Iran

Iran Human Rights (May 11 2016): A young prisoner with murder charges was reportedly hanged at Mashhad Central Prison (in the Razavi Khorasan province, northeastern Iran) on Sunday May 8 at 4:50am.

The state-run news site, Rokna, identifies the prisoner as a 19-year-old by the name of "Morteza".

Although the report does not mention the date of arrest, there is a possibility that the prisoner was arrested when he was under the age of 18.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 11, 2016

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