Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Court of Criminal Appeals Decision Signals Likely Shutdown of Executions in Texas

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of execution to Heliberto Chi, following the U.S. Supreme Court's lead after it decided to review Kentucky's lethal injection procedures. Chi was scheduled to be executed on October 3. Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense said that the stay signals a probable slowdown, if not a complete shutdown, of executions in Texas until the Supreme Court issues a decision in the lethal injection case. Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, said she was encouraged "that the Texas Court did the right thing instead of waiting for another mandate from the Supreme Court." Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Steven Conder said he was not surprised by the court's decision in light of the Supreme Court's consideration of the issue.

Prior to the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in the case, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant Chi relief, and Texas Governor Rick Perry refused to intervene in the case based on his belief that the state's lethal injection protocols are proper.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take the Kentucky case on September 25. That same night, Texas executed Michael Richard after defense attorneys were unable to file an appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals. Despite being told of the defendant's efforts to appeal and of a computer problem causing delays in completing the appeal, the court closed at its regular time of 5 pm. The Supreme Court then declined to issue a stay because the Texas court had not made a ruling on it. Richard would probably have been granted a stay, based on the subsequent rulings, if the Texas court had agreed to stay open a little later to accept the appeal. On September 27, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to stay the execution of Carlton Turner, but the U.S. Supreme Court did so without explanation.
(Dallas Morning News, October 3, 2007).

Source : Death Penalty Information Center

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