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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 halts scheduled July 14 execution pending drug test

Perry Eugene Williams
Perry Eugene Williams
The scheduled July 14 execution of a man convicted in the slaying of a medical student robbed of $40 has been postponed indefinitely.

A Texas prison system spokesman said Wednesday that a state district judge in Houston has withdrawn the execution order for Perry Eugene Williams pending test results for the drugs to be used in his execution.

The case marked the first time a Texas execution has been delayed for that reason, officials said.

Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said while the state has enough drugs to carry out all seven executions scheduled through October, Perry Eugene Williams' execution was delayed because the agency could not get the test results back in time..

Prison officials said the delay was ordered by a Houston court after they alerted it the test results could not be obtained on time.

No further details were given.

Officials said the testing of the dose to be used to execute Williams was agreed to by Texas in June, when U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston dismissed a suit filed by Williams and Thomas Whitaker, another death chamber-bound convict from Houston, who challenged the state's execution process.

Maurie Levin, an attorney representing Williams, said she was puzzled by the state's inability to get the results on time.

"It's a mystery to me how they could not meet the deadline, because no further explanation has been given," she said. "But the bottom line is, this is the problem with the secrecy of the process of executions."

The Texas Attorney General's Office had agreed in a lawsuit filed on Williams' behalf to have the drugs tested before his execution.

Williams is set to die for the 2000 slaying of Baylor College of Medicine student Matthew Carter.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark says the delay doesn't affect the state's next scheduled lethal injection, the Aug. 10 execution of Ramiro Gonzales for the 2001 slaying of an 18-year-old woman in Medina County.

Sources: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, July 8, 2016

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