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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…

Indonesia: Man on death row claims innocence as execution imminent

Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia
Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia
“They betrayed my trust,” Santa said when The Jakarta Post visited the 43-year-old father-of-one at the Salemba detention center in Central Jakarta, recently. He repeated the phrase several times throughout the conversation, expressing strong disappointment in his business colleagues, several Chinese nationals whom Santa believes put him on death row.

It all started in April last year when Santa, who ran a small business offering driving services, got an order to pick up four Chinese nationals at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport.

One order led to another, and the Chinese men became his business partners in distributing children’s toys imported from China.

One of the men, whom he referred as Jia Bo, called him on the evening of June 3 last year, asking him to come to a toy warehouse in North Jakarta for a Mandarin-Indonesian translation job.

Alas, 12 police officers from the Jakarta Police were waiting when he arrived and immediately arrested Santa over allegations of possessing 20 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, locally known as shabu-shabu. The police also arrested four other Chinese men that evening, Tan Weiming aka Aming, Shaoyan aka Xiao Yan Zi, Shi Jiayi aka Jia Bo and Qui Junjie aka Junji.

The West Jakarta District Court sentenced Santa to death on March 3, but the court sentenced the four Chinese citizens to life imprisonment.

All of them were indicted under articles 112, 113 and 114 of Law No. 35/2009 on narcotics. The law stipulates sentences of a minimum of six years and a maximum life sentence for drugs trafficking. Santa’s lawyers from the Jakarta-based Community Legal Aide Institute (LBH Masyarakat) slammed the sentence as “blatant injustice.”

LBH Masyarakat decried the sentence due to several irregularities, one of which was the absence of a lawyer during an interrogation by the Jakarta Police’s investigator on June 4. Santa was allegedly forced to admit that he imported the meth and that he had consumed the drugs. A urine test later showed that Santa was clean, said one of his lawyers, Muhammad Afif.

Afif said the trial was illegitimate because so many hearings had been delayed due to the failure of prosecutors to present witnesses and translators. “We were given only 30 minutes to prepare our final defense statement,” Afif added, elaborating that the defendant would normally have at least seven days to prepare the final defense statement. “It seems like the trial was a mere formality and that the judges had made their decision before the end of the process.”

Human rights campaigners have called on the government to impose a moratorium on capital punishment due to the country’s corrupt legal system and have denounced President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s decisiveness on the policy.

In a recent hearing with the House of Representatives’ Commission III overseeing legal affairs, Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo reaffirmed that Indonesia would continue to use death penalty.

Prasetyo admitted that the government had temporarily put executions on hold to avoid criticism while Indonesia was vying to be a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Over the weekend, at least seven death row convicts were transferred to the secluded prison island Nusakambangan in Cilacap, West Java, along with 50 convicts from various penitentiaries in the country.

An authority in charge of Nusakambangan, Abdul Aris, confirmed this. “It’s true. Fifty prisoners from Salemba [penitentiary] and six from the Magelang [penitentiary] were transferred here on Friday [last week],” he said.

The last time death row convicts were executed on Nusakambangan was in July 2016. Four drug convicts were executed from the 14 listed at the time, including an Indonesian man and three Nigerians.

Source: The Jakarta Post, Margareth S. Aritonang and Agus Maryono, March 14, 2017

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