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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…

High court rejects appeal from Troy Davis

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, clearing the way for the state to resume planning for Davis' execution.

The justices on Monday refused to order the federal appeals court in Atlanta to examine Davis' case and they declined to do so themselves.

In 2009, the high court ordered a federal judge to examine evidence Davis said would show he was innocent of the 1989 killing for which he has been sentenced to death.

But the judge decided last year that Davis had failed to clear his name.

At the moment, executions are on hold in Georgia after federal agents seized the state's supply of a key lethal injection drug.

Source: Associated Press, March 28, 2011


Appeal denied in high-profile US death row case

The US Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal to death row inmate Troy Davis who is seeking a new trial after 7 of the 9 witnesses against him recanted their murder trial testimony.

The Supreme Court rejected a request for an appeal hearing submitted by lawyers on behalf of Davis, a 42-year-old convicted of murdering a police officer in the southern state of Georgia in August 1989.

The decision clears the way for the execution of Davis, who has been on death row in Georgia since 1991 but has always maintained his innocence.

Davis's conviction rested on the testimony of the 9 witnesses, with no direct physical evidence such as a murder weapon, DNA or fingerprints linking him to the crime.

After a series of failed earlier appeals, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in August 2009 allowing Davis to present what he claimed was exculpatory evidence that was not reasonably available during his trial.

But after the rare hearing in August 2010, the judge decided there was not enough evidence to prove Davis's innocence.

With its racial overtones -- Davis is black, the officer Mark Allen MacPhail was white -- and the prisoner's continued claims of innocence, the case has triggered an international outcry.

Critics have included the European Union, whose member states oppose the death penalty, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Pope Benedict XVI.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 28, 2011
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