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HOUSTON (AP) — A law firm that’s been representing Texas death row inmates for more than two decades is recommending the state establish a system for condemned prisoners to have better legal help during the initial appeal that follows their trial.

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The Texas Defender Service, in a report examining what’s known as direct appeals in death penalty cases, cites “systemic weaknesses” in the way those appeals are handled. The legal firm contends lawyers are overwhelmed by caseloads and underpaid for the time spent on these cases, that some attorneys who do accept the cases are inadequately prepared and that no specific state entity is devoted to training or consulting with lawyers handling direct appeals.

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The group, among its recommendations, is calling for establishment of statewide capital appellate defender office to represent death-sentenced convicts.

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