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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…

Saudi Arabia kills Nigerian man in 95th execution of the year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Fahd Houssawi was put to death for murder of police officer as human rights groups raise concern over surge in executions

Saudi authorities have executed a Nigerian man after convicting him of murdering a police officer.

It was the 95th execution of the year in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, which imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy. The surge in executions has drawn concern from human rights groups.

Fahd Houssawi was executed on Sunday in the western city of Taif, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. He had been found guilty of strangling a policeman and beating him to death, the ministry said.

Amnesty International has warned that at the current rate Saudi Arabia could see more than 100 executions in the 1st half of 2016.

The London-based watchdog said the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the third most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan. Its figures do not include secretive China.

The executions this year are higher than at the same point last year, Amnesty said.

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, triggering a severing of relations.

Source: The Guardian, May 29, 2016

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