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

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…

Florida: Seth Penalver acquitted of charges related to his 1999 death sentence

Seth Penalver kneels and weeps into his chair
after a Broward jury finds him not guilty of the
1994 Casey’s Nickelodeon murders.
Tampa, FL. (12-21-12)---A Broward County Jury has acquitted Seth Penalver of all charges related to his 1999 murder conviction and death sentence. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned Penalver’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The jury ended its 10th day of deliberations Friday by delivering the acquittals, capping a five-month trial and securing Penalver’s freedom after he spent almost half his life in custody. Penalver, who has been jailed since his arrest in the summer of 1994, is expected to be released tonight.

With this decision, Penalver becomes Florida’s 24th Exonerated Death Row Prisoner. Florida has far more exonerated Death Row inmates than any other state.

Since Florida resumed executions in the 1970’s, twenty-four wrongfully convicted Death Row prisoners have been exonerated while seventy-four prisoners have been executed. “That’s one exoneration for every three executions,” said Mark Elliott, Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, ”How many more innocent people will be sentenced to die in Florida before our state leaders realize that this is a fatal problem that cannot be fixed ?”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center’s latest report, The Death Penalty in 2012: Year End Report, Florida now sentences far more people to death than any other state.

This year, Florida has 21 new death sentences out of 78 nationally---that’s more than one quarter (26.9%) of ALL new death sentences in the U.S. One small corner of our state, the Jacksonville area, handed down one quarter of all new Florida death sentences. “The state picks up the tab, so areas like Duval County burden all Florida taxpayers with their extreme use of numerous, big-ticket death penalty prosecutions.” said Elliott.

While death sentences have dropped dramatically in other states, Florida is expanding use of the death penalty. “It is both tragic and ironic that the state that has sent the highest number of wrongfully convicted people to Death Row is now condemning the most people to death,” said Elliott.

“It is time for Governor Scott to act and call a halt to executions to prevent the possible execution of other wrongfully convicted people,” said Elliott, “Florida’s death penalty system is a hugely expensive, mistake-ridden government program with no accountability or oversight. It is time to admit it cannot be fixed and end it.”

Source: Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, December 22, 2012

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