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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…

State of Florida will ask for the death penalty at Pablo Ibar retrial

Pablo Ibar
Pablo Ibar
The Spaniard of Basque descent has already spent 16 years on death row, after a conviction in the 1990s for a triple-homicide

The State of Florida has announced its decision to ask for capital punishment for Pablo Ibar, despite the Florida Supreme Court having vacated a death penalty sentence from the year 2000 and ordered a new trial.

Ibar, a Spanish citizen of Basque descent, was convicted of a 1994 triple homicide of a nightclub owner and 2 models. He has already served 22 years in prison, 16 of them on death row.

Andres Krakenberger, a spokesman for the Pablo Ibar Association Against the Death Penalty, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that the defense had received the state's notification. He said the decision was "predictable," though it has caused "profound disappointment," given that the prosecution is pressing charges against someone who has "clear proof of his innocence."

Krakenberger said Ibar was wrongly convicted and has already had to serve 16 years on death row, while the Florida Supreme Court agrees that the "scant" evidence against him is "weak."

The court vacated the conviction in February saying: "Ibar's DNA was not found on a blue t-shirt recovered from the crime scene that was allegedly used to partially cover the face of the perpetrator, whom the state claimed to have been Ibar. [...] Ibar never confessed to the crime as he steadfastly proclaimed his innocence [and] presented an alibi as to his whereabouts."

The spokesman criticized "the coldness" of the notification the defense received. Krakenberger said it shows that capital punishment is seen as a "procedure" in the United States despite the fact that it is "cruel, inhumane and degrading" and "has no place in the 21st century."

Krakenberger told reporters that Ibar, who was transferred from death row to a county jail earlier this month, received the news with "a certain resignation," though he said, speaking broadly, that he was in good spirits because his situation "has improved."

Ibar's defense team needs $1.3 million to mount their case. They still need to raise $590,000. The defendant has received $50,000 for his legal fees from the Basque Country government, regional organizations and private individuals who have donated to the cause through the association's website.

Source: El Pais, June 23, 2016

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