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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…

7th Oklahoma death row inmate now eligible for execution date

Oklahoma State Penitentiary
Oklahoma State Penitentiary
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the final appeal on Monday of Oklahoma death row inmate Scott Eizember, whose 2003 crime spree resulted in the deaths of an elderly couple.

Since Eizember has exhausted his appeals, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt would normally ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set an execution date.

However, Pruitt has asked that all executions be delayed until the Oklahoma Department of Corrections finishes a report on the state's lethal injection process. Pruitt told the state appeals court in January that it would be inappropriate to move forward with executions while the protocol is being investigated.

Pruitt said he would not request an execution date until at least 150 days after the corrections department has issued its report.

The state has not executed an inmate since January 2015.

There are now 7 Oklahoma death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals.

The investigation of the state's lethal injection protocol was prompted by the discovery that a pharmacy had delivered the wrong drugs for the Sept. 30 execution of Richard Glossip.

Before that, the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection protocol had gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was narrowly upheld. The challenge stemmed from the trouble-plagued execution in 2013 of Clayton Lockett.

Eizember, who is now 55, was given the death penalty for killing A.J. Cantrell in the Creek County town of Depew.

Eizember had taken Cantrell and his wife, Patsy, hostage in their home; A.J. Cantrell grabbed his shotgun and shot at Eizember, but his shot killed his own wife. Eizember then beat Cantrell to death with the gun.

Eizember was convicted of 2nd-degree felony murder for Patsy Cantrell's death.

After killing Cantrell, he shot a man and beat a woman who were related to his ex-girlfriend and lived across the street from the Cantrells. After days in hiding, he forced a couple to drive him to Texas, then beat the husband and tried to shoot the wife before he was captured.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his arguments last year that 2 jurors in his trial should have been excused because they were improperly biased in favor of the death penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined without comment to review the appeals court decision.

Source: The Oklahoman, June 14, 2016

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