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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…

Court approves executions for 2 Arizona inmates

Robert Henry Moormann (L)
and Robert Charles Towery (R)
PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the executions of two inmates, including one who has been on death row for 26 years for brutally killing and dismembering his adoptive mother.

The court approved warrants for Robert Henry Moormann and Robert Charles Towery and set their executions eight days apart from one another. Moormann’s execution was scheduled for Feb. 29 and Towery’s was scheduled for March 8.

If Moormann’s execution is carried out, it will be the first death penalty carried out in the state since July 19, when the state executed Thomas Paul West for the beating death of another man in a 1987 robbery.

The court was set to consider approving the death warrants for Moormann and Towery back in November, but delayed the decision at the last minute without explanation.

At the time, a federal judge was considering a lawsuit filed by defense attorneys arguing that Arizona’s execution practices violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The lawsuit claimed that the state had deviated from a court-approved execution protocol by using unvetted personnel to administer lethal injections under a sheet, away from witnesses’ view.

Judge Neil Wake ended up dismissing the lawsuit on Dec. 21. The defense attorneys are appealing his decision to the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Source: AP, January 11, 2012

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