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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…

US Justices Extend Firearm Rights in 5-to-4 Ruling

WASHINGTON — The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.

The ruling came almost exactly two years after the court first ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns in District of Columbia v. Heller, another 5-to-4 decision.

But the Heller case addressed only federal laws; it left open the question of whether Second Amendment rights protect gun owners from overreaching by state and local governments.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the right to self-defense protected by the Second Amendment was fundamental to the American conception of ordered liberty. Like other provisions of the Bill of Rights setting out such fundamental protections, he said, it must be applied to limit not only federal power but also that of state and local governments.

The ruling is an enormous symbolic victory for supporters of gun rights, but its short-term practical effect is unclear. Read more>>>

Source: The New York Times, June 29, 2010

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