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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…

Three Islamic militants executed in a prison in central Pakistan

Three Islamic militants convicted by military courts were executed in a prison in central Pakistan on Wednesday, the Pakistani army announced.

The militants were associated with the Pakistani Taliban and a second extremist group named Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami, the army said in a statement. 

They were convicted of involvement in the killing of soldiers and police officers, it said.

The Pakistani government began trying alleged Islamic militants in military courts and lifted a moratorium on executions following a December 2014 Taliban attack on a school that killed more than 150 people, most of them schoolchildren. 

Human rights groups have criticized the fairness of the military courts, but the army says all defendants have a right to appeal.

The two-year mandate for the military courts to try alleged Islamic militants recently expired, and parliament has been debating whether to continue the practice.

Pakistan has been at war with Islamic militants for over a decade.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, gunmen intercepted the car of a bureaucrat, Abdullah Jan, in the southwestern city of Quetta, and abducted him, according to police officer Abdur Razzaq Cheema.

No ransom or any other demand has been made yet and no one has claimed responsibility. 

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, is a hotspot for both Islamic militant groups and separatist insurgents who demand greater autonomy and a larger share of regional resources.

Source: Associated Press, March 15, 2017

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