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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…

De Lima hits Duterte: Go signal of Veloso execution 'disgusting, not surprising'

President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and President Joko Widodo.
President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and President Joko Widodo.
It's disgusting yet something not surprising from the President.

Neophyte Senator Leila De Lima on Monday, September 12, slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly giving a go signal to the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina on death row in Indonesia.

The President's act, while deplorable, is nothing new, with the senator citing the present government policy on extrajudicial killings in the country.

But then again, are we surprised? In our own country, more than 40 people are killed without any trial everyday. So what is the worth of another life, the life of Mary Jane Veloso.

"Judicial or extrajudicial executions, that is now the policy of the government. It's saddening. It makes me cry. It's shocking in a disgusting way." Calling the remark "disgusting," De Lima said it is heartbreaking for no less than the President to easily "throw away" all government efforts in saving Veloso's life. As President, it is well within Duterte's power to hold off the execution, De Lima said.

"I am sad and heartbroken that the President will throw away all our efforts to save a life just like that, when it is still in his power to request for the holding off of the execution," De Lima said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, for his part, shared the same dismay over the reported statement of the Philippine president.

"This is hearbreaking. I am at a loss for words to describe how it has come to this," Pangilinan said.

'All efforts have come to nothing'

With Duterte's apparent go signal to the Indonesian government, the senator claimed that the administration is no longer keen on saving the life of Veloso.

"This means he will no longer intercede, and that saving Veloso's life is no longer the policy of the President," De Lima said.

Unlike the present government, De Lima said the Aquino administration prioritized saving Veloso's life.

"The fate of Mary Jane and saving her life has been important to us in the Aquino Administration," she said.

The DOJ under her, she said, provided the Indonesian government the legal basis to delay the execution using the "mutual cooperation treaty between the 2 countries on the prosecution of crimes" and by catching Veloso's recruiters.

The apparent new policy, De Lima said, erases and downplays past efforts.

"Now it appears all our efforts have come to nothing, because the President is a firm believer in the death penalty and the punishment of those convicted of drug trafficking, and these personal beliefs are now our government's foreign policy insofar as the fate of Veloso is concerned," she said.

Former president Benigno Aquino III supposedly broke protocol in April 2015 when he directly talked with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi for a last-minute appeal to save the Filipina on death row.

Aquino requested Indonesia to turn Veloso into a state witness so it could pin down a drug trafficking syndicate, which allegedly includes Veloso's recruiters.

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, for his part, said Veloso deserves clemency and the government's full support in securing it.

"[She] was not a drug lord. She was not even a user. On the contrary, she was used to smuggle drugs without her knowledge," Recto said.

"If she was a conscious, willing participant in transporting drugs, then any official reluctance in pursuing clemency for her can somewhat be explained, although this can never be justified. But she was duped by con men, members of an international syndicate, some of whom have been arrested," he added.

Malacanang should clarify the matter

Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters in Bahasa Indonesia on Monday: "I have already spoken (to President Duterte) about Mary Jane's case. I said that Mary Jane brought 2.6 kilograms of heroin. And I also told him about the postponement of the execution. At that time, President Duterte said 'go ahead' if (Mary Jane) were to be executed."

But Malacanang denied such statement, saying Duterte only said he would "not interfere" with Indonesia's laws.

With the confusing statements, De Lima and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV asked the Palace to clarify the matter immediately. "There is still much confusion in this, as Secretary Yasay has said that as a result of the meeting of the 2 Presidents, the execution has been held off indefinitely. Malacanang should clarify what actually happened," De Lima said.

"We hope the DFA can clarify the matter asap, not just for the public who are faced with contradicting statements but more so for Mary Jane's family and loved ones," Aquino told Rappler in a text message.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, however, believes that Duterte was only misinterpreted.

"Taken out of context, I'm sure. President Duterte already issued a statement saying he never said anything like that," Sotto told Rappler.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Juan Miguel Zubiri, for their part, refused to comment on the issue, saying they have yet to hear the whole story.

Source: rappler.com, September 13, 2016

Rally for death row prisoner in Manila


Human rights and migrant worker organisations in both the Philippines and Indonesia have engaged in social media campaigns and widespread public rallies on behalf of Veloso
Supporters of death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso have gathered in Manila to protest against her impending execution in Indonesia, following reports that the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had given the go-ahead for the penalty.

Veloso, who was arrested in April 2010 and sentenced to death 6 months later, was granted a temporary reprieve in April last year despite the state-sanctioned killings of 7 other death row inmates including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Before Duterte assumed office at the end of June, the Philippine government had twice intervened to try to save the life of the domestic worker and mother of 2, with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) under the previous President Benigno Aquino III piecing together a detailed timeline of events that pinpointed Veloso's work recruiters as the real culprits.

Human rights and migrant worker organisations in both the Philippines and Indonesia have engaged in social media campaigns and widespread public rallies on behalf of Veloso, who throughout her trial has maintained that she was initially recruited to Malaysia to clean houses, after which her recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio requested her to travel to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Veloso, who hails from the impoverished Cabanatuan city in Central Luzon of the Philippines, said Sergio had bought her new clothes for trip and equipped her with a larger bag, which Veloso only upon her arrest discovered had heroin sewn into the lining, according to the DFA account.

Source: news.com.au, September 13, 2016

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