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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…

Texas executes Yokamon Hearn

Yokamon Hearn
HUNTSVILLE, Texas A 33-year-old man convicted of carjacking and fatally shooting a suburban Dallas stockbroker headed to the Texas death chamber Wednesday, becoming the first person in the state executed with a single lethal drug.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced last week they were modifying a three-drug execution procedure used since 1982 because the state's supply of one of the drugs - the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide - has expired. Yokamon Hearn was executed using a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

Ohio, Arizona, Idaho and Washington have already adopted a single-drug procedure, and this week Georgia said it would do so, too.

Hearn was sentenced to death in the March 1998 slaying of Frank Meziere, 23. About 3 1/2 hours before Hearn's execution, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals to halt it. None of the appeals addressed the change in the state's execution drug policy.

In one previous appeal, Hearn's lawyers argued that his mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant, stunting his neurological development and leaving him with mental impairments that disqualify him from execution under earlier Supreme Court rulings. Testing showed Hearn's IQ was too high for him to be considered mentally impaired.

In another, his appeals lawyers claimed the trial attorneys who handled his initial appeals failed to investigate his background and uncover evidence of his alleged mental impairment and troubled childhood.

In 2004, he avoided the death chamber when a federal court agreed his mental impairment claims should be reviewed and halted his execution less than an hour before its scheduled time.

Hearn showed no apparent unusual reaction to the drug as his execution began. He was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m.

Asked by the warden if he wanted to make a final statement, he said: "I'd like to tell my family, I love you and I wish you all well. I'm ready."

Hearn becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas this year and the 483rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. At least 8 other Texas prisoners have execution dates in the coming months, including 3 in August. 

Hearn becomes the 24th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1301st overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. Condemned inmates are scheduled to be put to death in Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma and Louisiana between July 23 and August 15. 

Sources: AP, Rick Halperin, July 18, 2012

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