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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…

Oklahoma: Jurors choose death penalty for Oklahoma City man convicted of rapes, murder

Oklahoma death chamber
Oklahoma death chamber
Jurors on Wednesday chose the death penalty as punishment for an Oklahoma City man convicted of raping his girlfriend and her friend before fatally beating the friend.

The Oklahoma County jury deliberated less than an hour.

Last week, the jurors found Albert Ray Johnson, 49, guilty of 1 count of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of assault and battery with intent to kill, 2 counts of forcible oral sodomy, 2 counts of 1st-degree rape, 2 counts of forcible anal sodomy, 2 counts of kidnapping and 1 count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

After convicting Johnson last week, the jury chose life in prison as punishment for each count except the count of murder. Jurors on Wednesday decided the punishment of death for the murder count after listening to closing arguments.

Prosecutors said Johnson forced his girlfriend to invite over a female friend so he could "rape and kill" her. Johnson was accused of threatening to kill his girlfriend and her 8-year-old daughter if she didn't comply with his request.

The former girlfriend testified during the trial and told the jury she was forced to call her friend, Rachel Rogers, 24, to her home in The Village. Prosecutors said the call to Rogers occurred about 1:30 a.m. June 13, 2014.

When Rogers arrived at the home shortly after the call, Johnson pulled her inside and put a knife to her throat, the girlfriend testified. The victim said Johnson then raped both of them at knifepoint.

After the rapes, Johnson tied up the women and beat them with metal objects, prosecutors said. Johnson fatally beat Rogers with a dumbbell, "crushing her face," prosecutors said.

Source: The Oklahoman, June 23, 2016

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