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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…

Ho Chi Minh City People's Court upholds death sentence for Australian drug mule

Ho Chi Minh City People's Court
Ho Chi Minh City People's Court
The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court Wednesday confirmed the death sentence for a Vietnamese-Australian for drug smuggling after a reinvestigation determined the drug amount was too big to commute the sentence.

Pham Trung Dung, 39, was arrested at Tan Son Nhat Airport in May 2013 when checking in for a flight to Sydney after customs officers suspected he had drugs in his luggage.

He was sentenced to death in April 2014 after police identified the powder as more than four kilograms of heroin.

The Supreme People's Court later ordered authorities to weigh the heroin afresh, and it turned out there were nearly 3.6 kilograms.

The judges ruled Wednesday that it was "a huge amount" that poses a threat to society.

Dung said he was in Vietnam for a family vacation and a local had asked him to carry the drug to Australia for a fee of US$30,500.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. 

Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

Source: Thanh Nien News, August 25, 2016

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