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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…

Nevada Man Released from Death Row After Evidence Reveals Innocence of 1988 Murder

Ha’im Al Matin Sharif (AKA Charles Robins)
A Nevada man was released from death row last week after nearly 29 years in prison for a murder evidence now shows he did not commit.

Ha’im Al Matin Sharif (AKA Charles Robins) was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old baby girl. 

A medical examiner testified the child had been physically abused and ultimately murdered. The child’s mother testified that Sharif physically abused the child.

Sharif filed many appeals and in 2011, the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the District of Arizona began a review of his case. 

Attorney Cary Sandman noticed that the child’s injuries were consistent with Barlow’s disease (infantile scurvy). 

Medical experts reviewed the evidence and agreed. Sandman also discovered some of the child’s injuries occurred before Sharif was living with the child’s mother.

Sandman then interviewed the child’s mother, who said her testimony was false and she had never seen Sharif abuse the child. She later recanted her testimony, saying she agreed to lie in court after police threatened to take away her surviving children.

After an evidentiary hearing and a statement from another doctor agreeing the baby died from Barlow’s disease, prosecutors began negotiations for a deal. 

In the end, Sharif agreed to an amended conviction of second-degree murder and a reduction of his sentence to time served. Had he chosen to go back to trial, he could face more years of incarceration and possibly another death sentence.

Sharif told the Arizona Republic that he is looking forward to building a future for himself in Washington state, where he will move in with relatives.

“I have a level of optimism,” he said. “But I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Read the Arizona Republic article here.

Source: Innocence Project, June 15, 2017

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