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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…

Iran: 250 Executions So Far In 2016

Public hanging in Mashhad, May 17, 2016
Public hanging in Mashhad, May 17, 2016
Iran Human Rights (26 JULY 2016): According to a report published by Iran Human Rights (IHR), Iranian authorities have executed at least 250 people between January 1 and July 20 of this year. This represents an average of more than one execution each day. Still, the execution numbers so far in 2016 are significantly lower than the numbers for the same period in 2015.

Last year, Iranian authorities executed more than 700 people in the first seven months of the year. The execution numbers for the whole year were more than 969, the highest in more than 25 years.

"Despite the significant reduction in the number of executions compared to the last two years, Iran remains on top of the list of executioners after China. Moreover, there is no indication that the reduction in the number of executions so far is due to a change of policy by the Iranian authorities. The numbers are lower than last year most probably because of the parliamentary elections in February and March of this year and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in June," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for Iran Human Rights.

IHR's analysis of the execution trends in Iran shows the number of executions as normally very low in the month of Ramadan, the weeks around the Iranian New Year (March 20) and in the weeks before the parliamentary and presidential elections.

"More than 40 executions were carried out in the first three weeks of July, and we are concerned the executions will further increase in the coming months. We call on the international community and all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to put the situation of the death penalty in Iran on top of the agenda in their bilateral talks with the Iranian authorities," says Amiry-Moghaddam.

According to IHR's report, as in the past years, drug offenses and murder charges count for the majority of the executions carried out so far this year. Iranian authorities continue their practice of executing people in public places in front of ordinary citizens, including children. There are also several possible minor offenders among those executed so far in 2016; IHR is investigating further into these cases.

Some facts from IHR's recent report on executions between January 1 and July 20 2016:
  • 45% of the executions were reported by official Iranian sources
  • 47% of the executions were due to drug-related charges
  • 39% of the executions were for murder charges
  • 19 people were hanged in public spaces

It is important to emphasize that IHR is still investigting some of the execution reports, which have not been included here due to lack of sufficient details.

Source: Iran Human Rights, July 26, 2016

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