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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…

Louisiana: Judge to decide if death-row inmates get air conditioning

Louisiana's death row
Louisiana's death row
A federal judge will decide whether to order a Louisiana prison to install air conditioning for inmates on death row, according to the Associated Press.

Prison officials at Louisiana State Penitentiary have for three years maintained that ice, fans and a cold shower are enough to protect the inmates from heat and humidity.

The request for air conditioning came from three death-row inmates with medical problems.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson on Friday questioned why prison officials won’t spent the $1 million to install air conditioning for death-row inmates, especially when the state has already spent more than that to fight it in court.

A hearing is scheduled for June 15 for testimony about the effectiveness of the heat-control measures.

Jackson ruled in 2013 that it is unconstitutional to keep inmates where the heat index exceeds 88 degrees. An appeals court in 2015 rules prisoners could get heat relief without air conditioning and the state crafted a “heat remediation plan” involving cold showers, fans and ice chests. Lawyers for the inmates say the plan isn’t working, though.

Temperatures this year have already exceeded the 99-degree threshold.

“One must wonder: Is this really what the state wants to do?” Jackson asked. “It just seems so unnecessary.”

Source: The Hill, Jessie Hellmann, May 21, 2016

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