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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…

UN human rights chief bucks capital punishment

UN building, NYC
The United Nations human rights chief is opposing the imposition of capital punishment in all circumstances, saying death penalty is "not an effective deterrent" to crime and does not protect people from drug abuse.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was reacting to the execution of four convicted drug traffickers in Indonesia last Friday.

Convicted Filipina drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso was spared because the Philippine government under former president Benigno Aquino III asked that she be allowed to testify against Maria Kristina Sergio, who allegedly recruited her and tricked her into smuggling 2.6 kg of heroin into Indonesia.

But the new Philippine administration under President Duterte has expressed conviction that death penalty can be used to stop illegal drug trade in the country.

Al Hussein said the focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system to make it more effective.

He also called on authorities of "the most prolific executioner" in Southeast Asia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

"The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights," he said.

"I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia," he added.

Al Hussein noted that under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Indonesia has ratified, countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only use capital punishment for "the most serious crimes."

He pointed out that drug-related offenses do not fall under this threshold of "most serious crimes," which have been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing.

He said that while he acknowledges the challenges faced by Indonesia in combating drug-related crimes, the country's response must be rooted in international human rights law.

Philippines death penalty bill

Meanwhile, the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives faces rough sailing as opposition congressmen are determined to block its passage.

"We will fight tooth and nail any and all attempts to renew the death penalty and send us back to the medieval ages," Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay said yesterday.

He said he and his pro-life colleagues would argue doggedly against any measure that seeks to re-impose capital punishment.

Another opposition lawmaker, Harry Roque of Kabayan, said he, like Atienza, is against the revival of the death penalty.

"What we need to do is to reform the criminal justice system," he said.

The 2 belong to the opposition bloc led by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.

Ironically, Suarez is supporting President Duterte's proposal for re-imposition of the death penalty.

Source: Philippine Star, July 31, 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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