Greg Abbott's office referred questions to the state attorney general.
The request — which comes after years of declining executions — has sparked a federal lawsuit and hundreds of pages of comments from a broad coalition of concerned parties including the ACLU, the American Bar Association, Mexico's government, a former federal judge and dozens of defense attorneys.
"The victims' families just get frustrated beyond belief with all this reexamination when in most cases the guy is guilty beyond any doubt. Abbott's base to make it very proudly explained that we have an express lane to death." If Sessions approves it, opting in would include limitations on how long federal courts have to resolve cases, restrictions on judges' abilities to grant stays of execution, and limits on the claims that prisoners can raise in federal habeas proceedings.
The fact that a federal court overturns the judgment doesn't mean that that's a just result." Houston-based capital defense attorney Patrick Mc Cann stressed that federal courts are where many condemned men —including those wrongfully convicted like Anthony Graves, and those deemed too intellectually disabled to execute, like Bobby Moore — have gotten relief. But what's sparking the most concern among defense lawyers is a change that would halve the time attorneys have to file the first part of their federal appeal.
Approval is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation's top law enforcement officer who recently advocated for capital punishment for drug dealers in some cases.
"Opt-in presumes that we've reached this promised land of excellent and well-resourced legal representation at all levels for everyone on death row and in fact we have not," Kase said.
The letters submitted to the government early this year were highly critical of Texas' current defense system, calling it "inadequate" and "infected" by "well-publicized failures," pointing out that the state doesn't even guarantee counsel for all types of post-conviction proceedings. But in November, Sessions fired off letters to Texas and Arizona — two states that previously put in certification requests —and asked if they still wanted to apply. The states' affirmative responses prompted a required comment period, during which Texas Defender Services and other capital defense organizations produced a 247-page comment — bolstered by more than 100 appendixes — criticizing Texas' application, calling it "little more than a whitewash of the state's persistent historic failures" that includes "no evidence at all." The application itself doesn't explain why the state wants to opt in.
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