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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…

Notorious killer on California's death row found unconscious in cell, dies

Gilbert Rubio
Gilbert Rubio
A notorious killer on San Quentin's death row died after being found unconscious in his cell early Thursday, prison officials said.

The Marin County coroner will now work to determine how 55-year-old Gilbert Rubio died after correctional officers found him unresponsive during a security check just after 6 a.m.

Rubio was sentenced to die on Sept. 20, 2000 for the 1998 murder and robbery of high school vice principal George "Skipper" Blackwell in his Long Beach home.

He was convicted of 1st-degree murder with the special circumstance of robbery and burglary by a Los Angeles County jury.

Rubio and 2 others, 59-year-old Monica Chavez and Alex Vega, 61, robbed and bound Blackwell during a home-invasion robbery on Jan. 12, 1998.

During the robbery, Chavez and Vega left the home to cash a $2,000 check written by Blackwell. When his 2 accomplices left, Rubio shot and killed his victim.

Chavez was sentenced to life without parole and remains incarcerated at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. Vega was sentenced to life without parole and remains locked up at the California State Prison in Corcoran.

Avoiding execution by perishing from other means is all but certain in San Quentin, the state's only death row.

Since the Legislature re-enacted the death penalty in 1978, 13 inmates have been executed while more than 100 have died from other means.

No one has been executed at the prison for nearly a decade after U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose ruled the state's protocol for capital punishment was badly flawed.

There are 747 people on California's death row.

Source: sfgate.com, June 17, 2016

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