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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…

ISIS executes 5 media activists in Syria

ISIS members (file photo)
ISIS members (file photo)
The Islamic State murdered 5 Syrian media activists as it continues its assault on the press, maintaining tight control of the message that comes out of regions under the terrorist group's control.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has viewed a video released by ISIS in Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria. The video shows the execution of five media activists via 5 different, sadistic methods.

The militants also issued a warning that any journalists or media activists opposed to the group and working to reveal their crimes are not safe, even outside of Syria. They cite the killing of Mohammed Zaher al-Shirqat.

Shirqat worked for Halab Today TV, an independent satellite channel from Aleppo. He was shot in the neck at close range on the street in the Turkish city of Gaziantep in early April. He had previously received death threats from ISIS, who claimed responsibility for his murder.

The United States condemned the killing. "Freedom of the press, including ensuring that journalists can safely report on the crisis in Syria, remains critical as reporters keep working to expose the truth about this brutal conflict and Daesh's atrocities," reads a statement issued by John Kirby, Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson for the US state department. "[W]e stand ready to support Turkey as it works to bring to justice those responsible for attacks on the media."

The 5 media activists killed in Deir Ezzor were executed on charges of "acting against the Islamic State, communicating with outside parties and receiving funds, and other charges," reported the Observatory on Sunday.

The Islamic State has murdered at least 3 other journalists in Turkey. The media advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) has urged Turkey to "take whatever measures are necessary to guarantee the security of Syrian exile journalists."

Source: rudaw.net, June 26, 2016

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