Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Florida executes Oba Chandler

Oba Chandler
STARKE -- More than two decades after tossing an Ohio mother and her two daughters overboard from his boat to their horrific deaths, Oba Chandler finally paid the ultimate price.

The 65-year-old convicted triple murderer was put to death by lethal injection late this afternoon at Florida State Prison in Starke.

He died as he has spent the last 17 years in prison -- alone. Chandler had never had a visitor during his time on death row. And that didn't change today.

Hal Rogers, husband and father of the victims, sat in the front row of the small viewing room outside the death chamber. On either side of him sat relatives and prosecutors who tried the case and sent Chandler to death row. Of the 32 witnesses, only his attorney in the death-appeals process, Baya Harrison, was there to support him.

A couple of feet in front of Rogers, Chandler lay on a gurney, his arms strapped down and a sheet covering nearly his entire body. Only his face and massive arms were uncovered.

"Inmate Chandler, do you have any last statement you'd like to make," the team warden in the room asked him.

Without opening his eyes or looking at anyone, Chandler said simply, "No."

The drugs to end his life began flowing at 4:08. He was pronounced dead 17 minutes later.

Though Chandler had nothing to say to witnesses before he was executed, he did leave a written statement behind.

"Oba Chandler last statement. You are killing a innocent man today."

It is not known how long before the execution that the note was penned.

Earlier in the day, between 10 and 11 a.m., Chandler, the smooth-talking con man who lured three tourists onto his boat and then killed them more than two decades ago, ate his final meal.

Chandler could have requested a final meal valued at $40, but instead requested two salami sandwiches and one peanut butter sandwich -- all on white bread, and ate both of his salami sandwiches but only half of his peanut butter sandwich. He asked for grape jelly on the sandwich.

Chandler did not drink the unsweetened iced tea he requested, but opted for coffee instead.

He took a shower and dressed in suit pants and a white shirt for the execution.

Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said that Chandler was "compliant" and was "doing what he's told."

Chandler, a former aluminum contractor who lived in Tampa at the time of the crimes, had been on death row since 1994 for the slayings of Joan Rogers and her teenage daughters, Michelle and Christe. The bodies of the three Ohio residents were found in the waters of Tampa Bay on June 4, 1989.

They were naked from the waist down. Their hands had been tied behind their backs and their ankles were bound. Duct tape was placed across their mouths, and another piece of rope attached to a concrete block hung from their necks.

They were thrown into the water alive, one by one, after prosecutors believe they were raped.

"One victim was first; two watched," Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Susan Schaeffer said at Chandler's sentencing hearing on Nov. 4, 1994. "Imagine the fear.

"One victim was second; one watched. Imagine the horror," Schaeffer continued. "Finally, the last victim, who had seen the other two disappear over the side, was lifted up and thrown overboard. Imagine the terror."

But Valerie Troxell, Chandler's daughter who lives in Ohio, said in a telephone interview after the execution that "they executed an innocent man and I don't think anybody cares."

Jo Ann Steffey, a former neighbor of Chandler's who helped tip police to a handwriting sample that aided his conviction, however, was relieved.

"I'm glad it's over. I'm glad he's gone," she said by phone. "He was just so evil. He needed to be gone."

Evelyn Calloway served on the jury from Orange County in 1994 that convicted Chandler and then recommended he die for his crimes.

She said by telephone from her Orlando home she was feeling numb.

"I had a part in a verdict where a man's life was taken," she said. "But it wasn't right what he did and he had to pay the price. We did what we had to do."

Hal Rogers did not speak to the media after the execution, but a niece of Joan's did.

"The journey has been difficult for all of us involved," said Mandi Scarlett. "Now is the time for peace."

Chandler became the 267th person to be executed by the state of Florida since 1924. He was the 71st person since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976; no executions were carried out between 1964 and 1976.

He was the second man to die this year.

Source: Tampa Bay Online, November 15, 2011


Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Iran: Three Hand Amputations, Four Hangings Carried Out in Qom

Iran: Woman Asylum Seeker Lashed 80 Times After Being Deported From Norway

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Iran: Three executions carried out, two in front of large crowds

Gambia: President Barrow Signs Abolition Of Death Penalty Treaty

Texas Child Killer John Battaglia Found Competent for Execution

Two Myanmar migrants make final appeal in Koh Tao murder case

Judge warns death row inmate to keep Nevada's execution manual secret

Seventeen Hanged in Various Iranian Prisons, One in Public

Iran: More Public Executions, Prisoner Hanged While Crowd Watched