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…

California bill bans unsupported jailhouse testimony

California lawmakers have voted to ban use of uncorroborated testimony from jailhouse informants that is used to convict criminal defendants.

The state Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill by Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat, that would prohibit use of the unsupported testimony. The Senate passed the measure in May.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said jailhouse informants frequently have an incentive to lie. He said Romero's bill would help prevent wrongful convictions.

But Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, said the bill would make it difficult to prosecute crimes committed in jails and prisons. He said jurors should be the ones to judge the validity of an informant's testimony.

The 80-member Assembly passed the bill with a bare majority, 41-37.

Source: Associated Press

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