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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…

Aging death row: Is executing old or infirm inmates cruel?

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Vernon Madison has spent decades on Alabama's death row. Now 67, Madison has suffered from strokes and dementia and his lawyers say he no longer recalls the crime that put him there: the 1985 killing of a police officer.
His speech is slurred, he suffers from confusion, and once thought he was near release and talked of moving to Florida, according to his lawyers. This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the claims by Madison's defense team that executing someone in his condition would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel," Madison's attorney, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in January, when the justices stayed Madison's execution the night he was to receive a lethal injection.
The U.S. death row population is aging, and that leaves courts increasingly likely to grapple with questions of when it becomes unconstitutionally cru…

Arkansas lawmakers call for removal of Pulaski County judge after 2nd death-penalty protest

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At least 2 lawmakers are calling for the removal of a Pulaski County judge after he publicly protested against the death penalty for the 2nd time.
Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen again lay motionless as he strapped himself to a cot Tuesday evening outside the Governor's Mansion.
In a statement, state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, called the protest a "pathetic and depressing display."
"He has disgraced the office that he holds for years and now is using a desperate, attention seeking move to further bring shame on himself," Garner wrote.
State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, agreed in a Wednesday morning post on Twitter.
"It is time for #ARLeg to move to impeach Judge Wendell Griffen. Our justice system must be fair and impartial, and is no place for activism," Ballinger said.
Griffen was barred by the Arkansas Supreme Court from hearing capital punishment cases after he rallied against the death penalty on Good Friday last year.
"We are still…

Iraq sentenced 212 to death in Mosul since area retaken by Iraqi forces

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Human rights groups have accused Iraqi forces of flawed trials leading to unfair convictions
Baghdad: Iraqi courts have sentenced 212 people to death in Mosul and surrounding areas, most of them for complicity with Islamic State, since the area was retaken by Iraqi forces in July and August 2017, a judiciary spokesman said on Wednesday.
Mosul was home to two million people before being overrun in 2014 by Daesh which proclaimed a so-called “caliphate” stretching into neighbouring Syria.
Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared full victory over the group last December after Iraqi forces drove its last remnants from the country.
Since then, Human rights groups have accused Iraqi and other regional forces of inconsistencies in the judicial process and flawed trials leading to unfair convictions.
Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council said on Wednesday that criminal courts falling under the Nineveh Federal Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Mosul, had so far ruled on a total of 815 cas…

Iran: Execution Of A Sports Coach In Hamadan

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The Iranian regime’s criminal judiciary hanged Bahman Varmazyar, a sports coach, in the central prison of Hamadan on Wednesday morning April 18. 
There was no private plaintiff in his dossier who was accused of armed robbery of a jewelry store.
Following the efforts of Bahman’s family to save their son from execution, the mullahs’ regime falsely reported on Tuesday that his death sentence had been stopped, but he was executed on Wednesday early morning.
Thousands of prisoners across the country are on death row. 
A Baluch prisoner named Abdul Malek Baluchi, at the central prison of Zahedan, was transferred to the solitary confinement on April 13 after serving six and a half years imprisonment, and is on the verge of execution.
The mullahs’ regime is executing the youth of the country under the excuse of theft and smuggling at a time that Khamenei and other ruling mullahs from various factions and the IRGC and other government organs are the biggest thieves in Iran's history that …

South Carolina: Candidate running to be governor calls for return of firing squad

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In the wake of Sunday's deadly riot at a South Carolina prison, one of the Republicans running for governor has called for bringing back firing squads.
On a radio program, Catherine Templeton said firing squads should be revived in the Palmetto State. The Republican made the comments Tuesday on the Bob Mclain Show.
"Criminals legally sentenced to death are getting an unofficial reprieve right now as South Carolina goes without the drugs necessary for lethal injection," Templeton said. "We must make the death penalty swift and final. I will push for legislation allowing firing squads for court-ordered executions. And I will also seek to deny condemned inmates their choice of execution."
Templeton, who was a Cabinet director under former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, made her comments a little more than a day after the riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville late Sunday that left 7 inmates dead.
The Charleston attorney is not the first politician in South C…

Arkansas judge takes to cot again in death-penalty protest

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A judge barred from presiding over death-penalty cases participated in a vigil Tuesday marking the four executions that the state carried out over a two-week period last year.
Just as he did at a rally last year, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen lay motionless on a cot Tuesday evening outside the Governor's Mansion while about 40 opponents of capital punishment gathered nearby.
Griffen rose from the cot shortly after 7 p.m. after a man untangled the judge from a rope that loosely tied him to the green cot. Asked why he participated in the protest again and whether he was concerned with the perception, he gave the same answer twice.
"We are still killing," he said.
Griffen, who is also a Baptist minister, has sued the state's Supreme Court justices, claiming they violated his constitutional rights by banning him from hearing death-penalty cases in response to his participation on Good Friday last year in an anti-death-penalty rally on the steps of the sta…

Texas: Isidro Delacruz gets death penalty in Naiya Villegas murder

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In the end, the photographs of a smiling 5-year-old girl juxtaposed with a menacing-looking Isidro Delacruz - staring straight into the camera on the night of the child's murder - might have helped jurors decide Delacruz needed to die.
A Tom Green County jury sentenced Delacruz, 27, to death late Tuesday in the slaying of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas after more than 3 years of trial delays.
The jury of 8 women and 4 men went into deliberation at 10:30 a.m. to answer the special issues questions that resulted in the death penalty on the 5th week of trial.
Delacruz appeared emotionless when 119th District Judge Ben Woodward read the sentence in the courtroom, with relatives of both families present alongside half a dozen Tom Green County Sheriff's deputies.
Delacruz grinned when staff on the defense team patted his shoulders as he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Family members had been meandering in and out of the courtroom throughout the day as they waited for the jury …

Clamour for death: On hanging rapists of minors

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The anger is justified, but not the proposal to grant capital punishment for rape of minors
Each time a horrific sexual crime hits the headlines, there is a clamour for prescribing the death penalty for such offences. Given this, it is perhaps no surprise that the gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir has evoked a similar response. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has said her ministry will seek an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to provide for death as the maximum punishment for the rape of those below 12. The anger is understandable but legislation ought to be a well-considered exercise and not a response based on a sense of outrage over particular incidents. The last time a ghastly crime led to legislative change was in 2013, following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in December 2012. That set of amendments to criminal law was a structured response, larg…

More than 300 sentenced to death in Iraq for IS links

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Iraqi courts have sentenced to death a total of more than 300 people, including dozens of foreigners, for belonging to the Islamic State group, judicial sources said Wednesday.
The suspects are being tried by 2 courts, 1 near the former jihadist stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq and another in Baghdad which is dealing notably with foreigners and women.
Since January in the capital, 97 foreign nationals have been condemned to death and 185 to life in prison, according to a judicial source.
Most of the women sentenced were from Turkey and republics of the former Soviet Union.
In January, an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death after finding her guilty of belonging to IS while on Tuesday a French woman was sentenced to life in prison.
At the court In Tel Keif near Mosul, 212 people have been sentenced to death, 150 to life in prison and 341 to other jails terms, Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said in a statement.
"It has been proven that they …

Ohio Death Penalty Sentencing Process Ruled Constitutional

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Ohio's death penalty sentencing process is different in critical ways from a Florida sentencing scheme struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today. 
The state's high court unanimously rejected a Marion County man's challenge to the Ohio process, which he claimed violated an accused murderer's constitutional rights.
The ruling affirmed the death penalty of Maurice Mason, who was convicted of the rape and murder of Robbin Dennis in 1993. Mason had won the right to challenge his original death sentence in 2008. When his case went before the Marion County Common Pleas Court in 2016, he argued the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 Hurst v. Florida decision, which invalidated that state's death penalty sentencing process, applies to Ohio. 
The trial court agreed that Ohio's scheme was unconstitutional based on Hurst. Marion County prosecutors appealed the decision, and later in 2016, the Third District Court of Appeals reversed the decision…