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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…

Judge's execution ruling leaves Arizona at crossroads in death penalty debate

Arizona will not be killing anyone by lethal injection anytime soon.

This comes as a result of 3 things:

1. A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake keeping all executions in Arizona on hold for an unspecified amount of time.

2. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant, recently announcing it would no longer supply prisons with 7 drugs used to impose the death penalty, including 1 used by Arizona, midazolam.

3. The fact that Arizona's supply of midazolam is set to expire on May 31.

Arizona's current protocol in executions calls for midazolam. This was used on July 23, 2014 when Arizona executed Joseph Wood - Arizona's last execution to date - which did not turn out as expected.

As a result of this "botched execution" (as many have termed it), a federal lawsuit was filed by 7 death row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona demanding the state stop using the questionable drug cocktail and more transparency in the execution process.

As part of that lawsuit, Wake issued a moratorium on executions until investigations into the Wood execution could be completed.

Earlier this year, those investigations were completed and Wake ordered the lawsuit go forward.

Shortly after that ruling, Arizona requested Wake allow executions to go forward since its supply of midazolam was approaching its expiration date and that state has no way to replace that supply since manufacturers don't want their products used in executions. Not persuaded, Wake ruled Wednesday that the ban on executions will remain in place.

What is next for Arizona? Will the wild, wild west start using the firing squad? Not likely.

If Arizona wants to continue executing prisoners, I see a few options:

-- Return to the use of lethal gas (which carries its own difficulties)

-- Create a new protocol with a new drug combination, (which is costly and time-consuming)

-- Ask the Legislature and/or voters to approve a different technique to carry out executions (costly, time-consuming and not really practical)

The state could also move to get rid of the death penalty, which would be the easiest option, but would be costly and time-consuming process [How so? - DPN].

Regardless of which road Arizona chooses to head down, it will have to dedicate a fair amount of money and time to resolve this seemingly never-ending battle between those that believe in the death penalty and those that are opposed to it.

Source: Monica Lindstrom, KTAR news, May 20, 2016

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