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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…

Saudi Court Sentences 14 to Death in Attacks on Security Forces

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH — A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced 14 men to death on Wednesday in connection with attacks on security forces in a Shiite area in the country’s east, the Al Arabiya satellite network reported.

Of the 24 people tried, one was acquitted and nine others were given sentences ranging from three to 15 years, the network said. 

Those sentenced to death were accused of terrorism.

The men were arrested a few years ago, when protests by members of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority roiled the Qatif area of Eastern Province, leading to clashes with the security forces that left dead about 20 protesters and a number of police officers.

Many Shiites complain of discrimination in the Sunni-majority kingdom whose official creed considers some Shiite beliefs and practices heretical.

The Saudi government characterized the protesters as rioters who harbored armed groups, and it has put some of them on trial on charges that include terrorism. 

Western human rights groups have accused the Saudi government of using the courts to stifle dissent and convicting activists on trumped up charges.

The executions could escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia’s regional Shiite rival, Iran. 

Saudi Arabia’s execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric in January sparked protests in Tehran, and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties after protesters stormed its embassy.

The men’s death sentences can be appealed.

Source: The New York Times, Ben Hubbard, June 1, 2016

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