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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…

DNA Clears NY Man Wrongly Convicted of 1988 Murder

A New York truck driver who spent nearly 19 years behind bars for a 1988 slaying he didn't commit walked free Wednesday after DNA testing exonerated him and instead pointed to another prison inmate.

The exonerated inmate, Frank Sterling, 46, was convicted of murder in 1992 based on a confession that he later recanted.

State Judge Thomas Van Strydonck vacated the conviction after Monroe County prosecutors agreed with lawyers for the Innocence Project that DNA evidence obtained from the victim's clothing excluded him as the killer and pointed instead to Mark Christie, who was convicted of strangling a 4-year-old girl in 1994. Prosecutors who interviewed Christie earlier this month said he confessed to killing Viola Manville. He had been questioned about Manville's killing in 1988 but denied involvement and was discounted as a suspect.

Manville, a 74-year-old grandmother, was attacked as she walked along a rural trail near her home in Hilton, a Rochester suburb, and was bludgeoned to death on Nov. 29, 1988.

Sterling was serving 25 years to life. He confessed to the killing during an all-night interrogation in July 1991, but later claimed he had slipped into a hypnotic state and parroted details police gave him about the crime.

He unsuccessfully sought a new trial in 1997 after 4 former friends of Christie testified the teen bragged about clubbing Manville with a BB gun on his walk to high school.

Christie, who is 36, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for strangling a neighbor, Kali Ann Poulton, and hiding the body for 2 years before he finally blurted out the truth to his new bride. The girl vanished while riding a tricycle outside her home in a suburban Rochester townhouse complex in 1994.

The former security guard had taken part in a neighborhood search for Kali that spring night after disposing of the body.

Her disappearance touched of a nationwide search until summer 2006, when Christie told his wife he had strangled the girl with a pair of socks and submerged her body in a huge water tank at a factory where he worked. His wife called the police, and Christie led them to the body.

Source: Associated Press, April 28, 2010

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