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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…

Utah May be Forced to Use the Firing Squad in Future Executions

 Utah's firing squad execution chair
Utah's firing squad execution chair
Utah is one step closer to returning to the firing squad as its only realistic form of capital punishment.

The Pfizer drug company has announced that it will no longer make available several of its drugs for use in state-sanctioned executions. Pfizer was the only U.S. firm still making, and allowing, drugs used in executions.

18 months ago Utah Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, got his HB11 passed into law. It specifically says if lethal drugs aren't available at the time a death warrant is to be imposed, then the form of execution shall be a firing squad.

In the 2016 Legislature retiring Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, had SB189, which would have done away with the death penalty in Utah from this time forward.

Those already sentenced to death could still be executed.

SB189 passed in the Senate, but never got a vote by the whole House.

An anti-death penalty group estimates that it costs $1.6 million for Utah to go through all the of court appeals in a capital case, much more than it would cost to keep a convicted murderer in prison for life.

Urquhart and others argued that the death penalty is archaic and that modern DNA and other criminal high-tech detection shows some people are convicted of, and executed for, crimes they did not commit.

Since 1975, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, Utah has executed 7 murderers and have 9 currently on death row awaiting execution.

With the international drug firm's decision over the weekend, it now appears those Utah murderers, if they are finally executed, will be killed by firing squad.

Source: utahpolicy.com, May 16, 2016

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