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

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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 unveils new lethal injection execution rules

Corrections officials on Thursday announced new procedures for executing prisoners by lethal injection, beating a May 1 deadline by a day and clearing a major obstacle to resuming capital punishment after a hiatus of more than 4 years.

The proposed changes in the death chamber procedures are intended to address concerns expressed by a federal judge in 2006 that the state’s previous 3-drug formula may have exposed some of the 13 people executed in the last 2 decades to unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment."

Although the new procedures could get final approval from the state Office of Administrative Law within a month, executions are unlikely to resume soon as state and federal judges must first review the largely minor changes and decide whether they address the constitutional questions and procedural complaints by death penalty opponents. Those reviews are likely to extend at least through the end of the year.

California has 703 inmates on death row, and a handful of capital convicts are making their way to San Quentin State Prison, where the lethal injection chamber is located.

Despite having the nation's largest population of condemned inmates, there hasn't been an execution in the state since January 2006, when convicted killer Clarence Allen was put to death.

"This is the final step in the rule-making process," said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that has spent the past year combing through public comments on the proposed revisions. The department was facing a May 1 deadline to finish the reforms.

At least 6 of the more than 700 inmates on death row have exhausted all appeals and could be scheduled for execution as soon as the legal reviews are completed, said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation that supports the resumption of executions.

Source: L. A. Now, April 29, 2010

On April 29th, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released the new lethal injection procedures. No major changes were evident. The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) now has 30 days to decide if CDCR followed the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Executions are not likely to resume this year.

You can review the new procedures and related documents here.

You can read a story in the Los Angeles Times.

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