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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…

Governor commutes death sentence of Virginia inmate Ivan Teleguz

Ivan Teleguz
Ivan Teleguz
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called a 3:30 p.m. press conference to make a public statement “regarding his review of Ivan Teleguz’s petitions for a pardon and for commutation of his death sentence.”

Teleguz was scheduled to be executed on April 25.

“As a result of the thorough review process that we have gone through I have decided to deny Mr. Teleguz’s petition for a pardon,” McAuliffe said. “However, I am commuting his capital sentence to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole.”

“Mr. Teleguz will spend the rest of his life in a jail cell,” McAuliffe added.

“What has come to light, however, in my review of the circumstances regarding his death sentence, is that the sentencing phase of his trial was terribly flawed and unfair,” he said.

The governor said that false information was presented regarding an alleged murder and mob ties.

“Our judicial system is based upon fairness,” McAuliffe said.

Teleguz, 38, was convicted in a 2001 murder-for-hire plot in Harrisonburg which involved ex-girlfriend Stephanie Sipe, a 20-year-old mother of a young child.

After the case went cold for years, evidence implicated Michael Hetrick as the person who committed the murder, and he, along with two others, implicated Mr. Teleguz as having paid for the murder of Sipe.

Prosecutors argued Teleguz ordered his ex-girlfriend murdered so he could avoid paying child support.

His attorneys have argued for years that Teleguz in an innocent man.

“Two witnesses critical to the prosecution’s case have now admitted in sworn, written statements they lied at the trial,” Peiffer Elizabeth, with the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, said earlier this month. “They have no reason to believe that Mr. Teleguz was involved in this crime.”

DNA evidence linked Hetrick to the crime, and he made a deal with prosecutors to testify against Teleguz in exchange for an agreement not to seek the death penalty. Hetrick was sentenced to life in prison for the crime; however, Teleguz was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

“American values demand that every person, no matter their crime, be given due process of law,” McAuliffe said. ” In this case, we now know that the jury acted on false information, and that it was driven by passions and fears raised – not from actual evidence introduced at trial – but from inference. To allow a sentence to stand based on false information and speculation is a violation of the very principles of justice our system holds dear.”

Source: WTVR news, April 20, 2017

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