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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…

Iraq justice ministry announces execution of 22 convicts

Baghdad Iraq
Amnesty International has said that recent trials resulting in death sentences have been 'grossly unfair'

Iraq has executed 22 people over the past month who were convicted of terrorism and other crimes, the justice minister announced on Monday.

The ministry "carried out death sentences against 22 convicts condemned for crimes and terrorist acts," Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili said in a statement.

It also quoted Zamili as saying that with the start of the Iraqi operation to retake the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State (IS) group, "we confirm ... that the ministry is continuing to carry out just punishment against terrorists."

Rights group Amnesty International said that Baghdad executed at least 26 people in 2015.

Iraq sentenced nearly 100 people to death within the first 2 months of 2016, the group said in a February report.

"The vast majority of the trials have been grossly unfair, with many of the defendants claiming to have been tortured into 'confessing' the crimes," James Lynch, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director said.

Amnesty called on the Iraqi leadership to stop ratifying executions and begin a process to abolish the death penalty.

Iraq has faced widespread criticism from diplomats, analysts and human rights groups who say that due to a flawed justice system, those being executed are not necessarily guilty of the crimes for which they were sentenced to die.

But the country has repeatedly defied such criticism and continues carrying out executions.

Source: Middle East Eye, May 25, 2016

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