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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…

Malaysia: Brothers hurriedly, secretively executed in violation of international law

B. Rames Batumalai and Suthar Batumalai
B. Rames Batumalai (left) and Suthar Batumalai
Despite a pending clemency application before the state’s Pardon Board, brothers Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were executed at dawn on 15 March 2017. Contrary to international standards, their family were not provided adequate notice of the scheduled executions.

The family of Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were informed, by a letter dated 13 March 2017, to visit the prison on 14 March 2017 to pay their final respects. 

Upon arrival, prison authorities informed them that the execution was to be carried out the following day on 15 March 2017.

The brothers were originally scheduled to be executed on 24 February 2017, however they were granted a temporary stay of execution, pending the hearing of a petition containing new evidence on their case. 

To date, the clemency application, filed on 23 February 2017, has not been heard by the Pardons Board of the Negeri Sembilan state.

The executions were carried out in a hurried and secretive manner. This practice has been observed by Amnesty International in other cases of imminent executions the organization has been alerted to since 2014. 

International law in para 8 of the ‘Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty’ which was approved by the Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984 clearly states that executions may not be carried out pending any appeal or other proceeding relating to pardon or commutation of the sentence. 

This hurried execution is in violation of international law and standards, as the families should be given adequate notice of the scheduled executions.

On the night before the execution, a candlelight vigil was held for the two men, attended by their family members of the two men, as well as members of civil society, in protest of their rushed and unjust execution and the continued use of the death penalty.

Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were transported back to their home state, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, after their execution. 

Their funerals were held on 16 March 2017.

Source: Amnesty International, March 17, 2017

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