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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…

Arkansas Supreme Court issues stay for death row inmate

Little Rock, Arkansas, April 14, 2017
Little Rock, Arkansas, April 14, 2017
The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted 1 of 2 executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.

Stacey Johnson claims that advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn't kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of 2, in 1993 at her southwest Arkansas apartment.

In a 4-3 ruling late Wednesday afternoon, the state's highest court issued a stay for Johnson and ordered a new hearing in lower court for Johnson to make his claims.

Johnson was set for execution Thursday night along with inmate Ledell Lee, who is also seeking a stay in a separate case.

The Innocence Project previously asked the state's circuit court to grant Johnson new DNA testing, CBS affiliate KTVH reports.

In a press release, the group said newer DNA testing has "never been performed" in his case that could potentially prove his innocence.

The evidence in the case shows Heath was stabbed in the throat and raped. Johnson has maintained his innocence throughout his entire time in prison.

KTVH reports that anti-death penalty protesters have camped out in front of the governor's mansion in Little Rock in the weeks leading to the decision.

Source: CBS News, April 20, 2017

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