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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…

Arkansas Court Upends Death Penalty

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty law on Friday, faulting a provision that permitted the Corrections Department to select the fatal drugs used in an execution.

The court ruled 5 to 2 that the Legislature must set the quantity and type of drugs in a lethal injection. The 2009 law left those decisions to the director of the Corrections Department. The court sided with 10 death row inmates who challenged the law’s constitutionality.

Prison officials across the nation are grappling with a shortage of an anesthetic called sodium thiopental that is one of three drugs used in a lethal injection. The only American company that manufactured the drug stopped producing it in 2010, saying the active ingredient had become difficult to obtain.

Arkansas does not have any doses of the drug left, and its law does not specify whether a substitute is allowed.

The 37 inmates on the state’s death row will not be executed until the Legislature responds to the ruling, said Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department. But, she said, “we still have a responsibility to execute these inmates.”


Source: The New York Times, June 22, 2012

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Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.