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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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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…

Connecticut death row case to test scope of repeal

The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear death row inmate Eduardo Santiago’s request to extend the recent abolition of the death penalty to his own sentence, despite the bill’s iron-clad language restricting the repeal to new cases.

In April, the state legislature passed a repeal of the death penalty, but the legislation did not apply to those sentenced to death before the law was passed. Out of the 11 inmates currently on the state’s death row, five of them have already appealed to the Court regarding the validity of their sentences. Santiago’s death sentence was overturned in June because of withheld evidence, but he will have to face re-trial unless he can successfully argue that the legislature’s appeal should apply to him, said Mark Rademacher, his attorney. State legislators interviewed were split on how they think Santiago’s case will turn out, with pro-death penalty Republicans predicting he will escape his sentence and anti-death penalty Democrats expecting the appeal to fail.

Republican State Reps. David Labriola and Arthur O’Neill said they have no doubts about Santiago’s success in appealing to the Court. Labriola called the repeal’s “prospective” language, which aims it only at future cases, “disingenuous,” echoing the concerns of many death penalty advocates who feared last spring that a repeal would be used as grounds for the appeals of sentences regardless of its wording.

Both charged that the prospective language was a ploy on the part of repeal advocates designed to rally as many votes as possible, but State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a Democrat from New Haven and one of the most outspoken proponents of repeal, responded that it was a political compromise necessary to ensure the success of the death penalty abolition movement.


Source: Yale Daily News, Sept. 18, 2012

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