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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…

Death penalty arguments to be heard by Delaware Supreme Court

The Delaware Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of the state's death penalty today, bringing an issue that has been debated for months closer to conclusion - and potentially opening up a whole new deliberation.

Rauf v. State of Delaware will be argued at 9:30, with the Department of Justice and Public Defender's Office representing opposing sides. 

The Department of Justice contends the state's capital punishment statute is not in violation of the U.S. Constitution, while the Public Defender's Office believes it contradicts the right to jury trial.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty is unconstitutional because it allows the judge to sentence death. Delaware's death penalty law has similarities to Florida's, with a judge having some sway over whether to sentence a person to death.

Even if the court rules that portion of the law is unconstitutional, it may not strike down the death penalty as a whole. If the justices hold, however, the language in question is invalid and cannot be separated from the greater death penalty provision, capital punishment in the state would be at least temporarily eliminated.

Responsibility would fall to the General Assembly to craft a new law, and there may be enough opponents of capital punishment in the two Democratic-controlled chambers to block an attempt to overhaul the law.

Santino Ceccotti and Elizabeth McFarlan are the lead attorneys for the Public Defender and Justice Department, respectively.

Source: Delaware State News, June 15, 2016


Delaware justices hear arguments on death penalty law

Delaware's Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the state's death penalty.

The court agreed in January to answer questions from Delaware's Superior Court to determine whether the state's death penalty law meets constitutional muster. Meanwhile, all death penalty trials in Delaware are on hold.

Questions were raised about the constitutionality of Delaware's law after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing statute. That statute required a judge, not a jury, to find the factual existence of an "aggravating circumstance" making a defendant eligible for the death penalty.

Delaware's law is similar to Florida's, but prosecutors argue that it nevertheless is constitutional.

In advance of Wednesday's hearing, the court accepted written briefs from the attorney general's office and public defender's office.

Source: Associated Press, June 15, 2016

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