The Lone Star State wants Jeff Sessions to opt in to a pre-existing federal law that would speed up the appeals process for death row inmates. The consequence? Texas could get on with the business of killing people who are on death row a lot faster.
As The Hill notes, the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act gives states the power to sideline federal appeals in death penalty cases, so long as states can prove that their lawyers offered adequate legal counsel. Mind you, neither of the two states (Texas and Arizona) who have ever wanted to do so have been successful in their attempts. Advocacy groups and opposing legal experts are trying to stymie the application. A federal lawsuit has also been filed to block the measure. Meanwhile, no word on Sessions’ decision, but the man has been a long-time advocate of the death penalty.
As the Houston Chronicle reported, proponents of the law say it will save the government money by speeding up what can be a lengthy appeals process for victims. Meanwhile, opponents are worried about the potential risk of executing those who have been wrongly convicted. "Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," explains defense attorney Kathryn Kase, who previously served as executive director of Texas Defender Services. Indeed, the opt-in would make defense attorneys' lives difficult, as it would give them just six months to prepare for a case. It also would restrict stays of execution and the number of times a death row inmate could raise a claim in their case. Texas is even asking that the law, if approved, be applied to current death penalty cases—Texas has 229 inmates on death row and five scheduled executions.