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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…

Obama commutes the sentences of a record number of inmates

President Obama
President Obama granted clemency to a record 214 inmates on Wednesday, far surpassing his previous single-day record, as part of an ongoing effort to release federal inmates serving prison terms deemed to be unduly harsh.

To date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 562 federal inmates, more than the previous nine presidents combined. 

The White House said in a statement that the president will continue commuting the sentences of inmates through his remaining months in office.

“Today began like any other for 214 federal inmates across the country, but ultimately became a day I am confident they will never forget,” said Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel. 

The 214 inmates freed represents the most commutations in a single day since at least 1900, Eggleston said.

Typically, Obama has granted clemency to 40 or 50 inmates a month. In this case, 67 of the 214 inmates had been sentenced to life in prison. 

Almost all of those released from their sentences on Wednesday had been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, according to the White House.

The White House said the large number of commutations underscores the need for broader criminal justice reform, which has some bipartisan support but has stalled in Congress.

“While we continue to work to act on as many clemency applications as possible, only legislation can bring about lasting change to the federal system,” Eggleston said. “It is critical that both the House and the Senate continue to work on a bipartisan basis to get a criminal justice reform bill to the President’s desk.”

Click here to read the full article (+ list of inmates)

Source: The Washington Post, Greg Jaffe, August 2016

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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