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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…

Japan marks 22nd anniversary of Tokyo subway sarin gas attack

Sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway, March 20, 1995
Sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway, March 20, 1995
TOKYO — Japan on Monday marked the 22nd anniversary of a fatal nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway.

About 20 Tokyo Metro staff at Kasumigaseki subway station on the Hibiya line held a moment of silence at 8 a.m. to remember two former colleagues who died in the attack. Memorial services were held at five other subway stations.

In all, 13 people died and 6,300 were sickened after the Aum Supreme Truth cult released sarin in five subway trains during co-ordinated rush-hour attacks on March 20, 1995.

Thirteen Aum members, including cult leader Shoko Asahara, remain on death row, while others are serving prison sentences. The last fugitive was arrested in 2012.

In what some believe was an attempt to divert the authorities that Asahara thought were closing in on his base in the foothills of Mount Fuji, he sent five teams of two people to attack the Tokyo subway.

Five adherents—among them a senior medical doctor and several physicists—dumped packages of sarin on busy trains, puncturing them with sharpened umbrella tips, before being driven away from a pre-determined station by their co-conspirators.

The nerve gas, so toxic that a single drop can kill a person, evaporated over the following minutes as thousands of unwitting commuters got on and off each train.

Staff and passengers were among the dead. Many of those sickened only realised what had happened as their symptoms worsened throughout the day and news broadcasts began piecing events together.

Aum was never officially disbanded. It went bankrupt because of the massive damage payments it was forced to make to victims of its crimes.

Former members have continued under different groupings with new names, such as Aleph.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 20, 2017

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