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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…

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say acquitted of blasphemy charges after four-year legal battle

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say
Turkish pianist Fazıl Say
World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say was acquitted of blasphemy charges on Sept. 7, four years after being sentenced to a suspended jail term after sharing a post on his Twitter account.

An Istanbul court ordered Say’s acquittal on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of society” for retweeting several lines attributed to the 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam in 2012.

In a post on his Instagram account after the four-year judicial struggle, Say thanked and congratulated his lawyer Meltem Akyol.

He had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence in April 2013 for retweeting Khayyam’s lines after three people filed a criminal complaint to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, accusing him of blasphemy.

An Istanbul court later accepted Say’s demand to cancel his suspended sentence, paving way for his retrial.

In the September 2013 retrial, an Istanbul court sentenced Say to 10 months in prison but again suspended the sentence as Say had no previous criminal record.

The pianist then appealed this verdict at the Supreme Court of Appeals, which demanded in November 2014 that the controversial judgment against Say be reversed and he be acquitted.

On Oct. 26, 2015, the 8th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled by a majority vote that Say’s Twitter posts should be regarded as freedom of thought and expression and thus should not be punished.

Among the lines attributed to Khayyam that Say retweeted was: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house?”

Source: Hurriyet, September 7, 2016

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