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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…

Texas Death Row Inmate Sentenced to Life over Intellectual Disability

Jose Noey Martinez
Jose Noey Martinez
A man who fatally stabbed a 68-year-old woman and her 4-year-old granddaughter during a 1995 burglary in Hidalgo County will no longer face execution after he has been determined to be intellectually disabled.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, changed Jose Noey Martinez's sentence Wednesday to life in prison. The court agreed with a lower court's ruling that Martinez, now 40, “is a person with intellectual disability” and “is constitutionally ineligible for a death sentence.” Martinez had been on death row almost 20 years.

Martinez broke into the home of Esperanza Palomo to steal a TV and stereo, according to court documents. Palomo was babysitting her blind granddaughter, Amanda. Shortly after breaking in, Palomo confronted Martinez with a baseball bat. He stabbed the grandmother, who fell to the ground immediately, and raped her.

After killing the woman, Martinez told law enforcement, he heard the granddaughter crying in another room, court documents show. He told officers that he stabbed her to death.

A Hidalgo County jury found Martinez guilty of capital murder in 1996 and sentenced him to death.

On appeal, Martinez's attorneys had claimed that he is mentally retarded and argued that executing him would violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Once the Texas Department of Criminal Justice receives paperwork from the appeals court, Martinez will be taken to the Byrd Unit in Huntsville, agency spokesman Jason Clark said in an email.

"He will be interviewed, and information will be gathered about his family structure, criminal and social behavior, drug and alcohol involvement, military and institutional experience, as well as education and employment history," he said. "The results of the tests and interviews are the basis for classification decisions that determine the unit of assignment, the level of security supervision, housing and job assignments and time-earning status."

Source: The Texas Tribune, Jonathan Silver, June 15, 2016

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