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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 executes nuclear scientist who gave U.S. intelligence about secret nuclear program

Shahram Amiri
Shahram Amiri
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran confirmed on Sunday that it has executed an Iranian nuclear scientist who gave the U.S. intelligence about the country's contested nuclear program.

The official IRNA news agency quoted a spokesman for Iran's judiciary, Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi, confirming the execution of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist caught up in a real-life U.S. spy mystery who later returned to his home country and disappeared. He did say [sic] where or when the execution took place, but said Amiri's initial death sentence had been reviewed by an appeal court and that he had access to a lawyer.

Amiri "provided the enemy with vital information of the country," Ejehi said.

Amiri, who worked for a university affiliated to Iran's defense ministry, vanished in 2009 while on a religious pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, only to reappear a year later in a set of online videos filmed in the U.S. He then walked into the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and demanded to be sent home, returning to a hero's welcome in Tehran.

In interviews, Amiri described being kidnapped and held against his will by Saudi and American spies, while U.S. officials said he was to receive millions of dollars for his help in understanding Iran's contested nuclear program. Now, a year after his country agreed to a landmark accord to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, he has reportedly been hanged without any official word on his case.

"I am a simple researcher who was working in the university," Amiri said on his return to Tehran in July 2010. "I'm not involved in any confidential jobs. I had no classified information."

News about Amiri, born in 1977, has been scant since his return to Iran. Last year, his father Asgar Amiri told the BBC's Farsi-language service that his son had been held at a secret site since coming home.

On Tuesday, Iran announced it had executed a number of criminals, describing them mainly as militants from the country's Kurdish minority. Then, according to Iranian pro-reform daily, Shargh, an obituary notice circulated Amiri's hometown of Kermanshah, a city some 310 miles southwest of Tehran, announcing a memorial service on Thursday and calling him a "bright moon" and "invaluable gem."

Manoto, a private satellite television channel based in London believed to be run by those who back Iran's ousted shah, first reported Saturday that Amiri had been executed. BBC Farsi also quoted Amiri's mother saying her son's neck bore ligature marks suggesting he had been hanged by the state.

State media in Iran, which has been silent about Amiri's case for years, did not report his death until Sunday.

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Source: CBS News, August 7, 2016

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