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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…

UN drugs agency ignores global drug execution crisis in annual report

UN Building, NYC
A new report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime fails to mention the use of the death penalty for drug crimes, despite a surge in executions of alleged drug offenders in countries where the UN agency funds counter-narcotics police.

UNODC unveiled its 2016 World Drug Report today (23 June) and warned that the number of drug users has risen worldwide. However, the 174-page document included no reference to the increased number of death sentences and executions in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. 

While the UNODC’s report lamented the number of deaths from drugs overdoses, it made no reference to the 638 alleged drug offenders who were hanged in Iran last year, up from 367 in 2014.

UNODC recently announced a new $20m funding deal for Iranian drug operations, which will support law enforcement training and equipment that has previously been linked to arrests and executions.

Earlier this year 56 countries, including all 28 EU member states, signed a statement condemning the failure of a UNODC-administered summit to address the death penalty for drug crimes.

The statement also appeared to warn the UNODC over its human rights record, noting the need to “prevent criminal justice or other forms of international assistance resulting in a death sentence being applied, and to hold international agencies to account for compliance with this and all other human rights obligations.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said:

“The UN’s World Drug Report completely ignores the global resurgence in the death penalty for drug crimes, which has seen states like Iran and Saudi Arabia execute hundreds of alleged drug offenders.

“This seems all too convenient an omission given that the body which authored the report, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, continues to fund Iranian and Pakistani drug raids which routinely send drug mules to death row.

“Instead of whitewashing the world’s drug executions crisis, UNODC should face up to its human rights responsibilities, and freeze its support for drug police in countries which apply the death penalty for narcotics offences.”

The UNODC report is available here.

Source: Reprieve, June 23, 2016

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