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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…

"Quiet fury" will fuel artist Matthew Sleeth's film on Bali Nine execution

Matthew Sleeth hosted an exhibition by Myuran Sukumaran in 2014
Matthew Sleeth hosted an exhibition by Myuran Sukumaran in 2014
An artist who ran prison workshops with Myuran Sukumaran plans a film about the last weeks of the Bali Nine member leading up to his execution.

Matthew Sleeth has been funded to shoot Guilty, a one-hour film that will feature "a very detailed and near real-time look at the execution."

One of three projects announced for the Adelaide Film Festival's Hive Fund, which brings together artists and filmmakers, it will screen at the festival next year and then on the ABC.

Sleeth, whose A Drone Opera was performed in Melbourne last year, became an activist against the death penalty with fellow artist Ben Quilty after they ran art workshops with Sukumaran in Kerobokan Prison. Two years ago he hosted an exhibition of what he called "Myuran's wonderful paintings" at his studio.

A year after the execution of Sukumaran and fellow Bali Nine prisoner Andrew Chan, Sleeth remains very angry.

"There's a quiet fury behind this film," he says. "While Myu and Andrew were still alive, there was a restrained and necessarily disciplined campaign [for clemency] that was very effective.

"I now think there's a lot of anger to be channelled and also a lot of questions to be asked about how it came to this.

"Not so much hating Indonesia – that's too easy to do and too obvious. It's as a country, how did we let this happen?"

Sleeth believes there was insufficient understanding about what calls for the duo's execution really meant.

"I spent a lot of time in Indonesia and no one ever called for Myuran and Andrew to be killed to me – everyday Indonesians – but many, many Australians did," he says.

"So that made me ask, 'why?' It also made me ask, 'do people really know what it means to call for an execution?' So I want the film to be a very detailed and near real-time look at the execution."

Sleeth concedes this will be confronting for viewers.

"If anything should be obscene, it should be an execution," he says. "When I was talking to Myu about it, the horror was in the detail.

"What does the actual experience mean? Does the guy who's tying you to the post talk to you? What's it like to literally have your chest torn apart?

"They're the things we need to think about when we're actually calling for an execution and thinking about the rights and obligations of a state to its citizens.

"I don't think there was any country that ever had a moral obligation to stop an execution like Australia did in this case given the [Australian Federal Police, who tipped off the Indonesian police about the Bali Nine] is the reason why they were exposed to the death penalty in the first place.

"None of that will actually be in the film as such, but I hope they're the questions we're left asking at the end of it."


Source: The Canberra Times, Garry Maddox, May 4, 2016 (local time)

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