Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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…

Georgia executes Andrew Cook

Andrew Cook
Andrew Cook
A 38-year-old inmate convicted of killing 2 college students in 1995 was executed in Georgia on Thursday, apologizing to the families of both before being injected at a state prison.

Andrew Allen Cook was pronounced dead at 11:22 p.m., about 14 minutes after he was injected with the sedative pentobarbital. He was the 1st inmate to be executed since the state changed its procedure in July from a 3-drug combination to a single dose.

With his last words, he apologized to the families of Mercer University students Grant Patrick Hendrickson, 22, and Michele Lee Cartagena, 19, who were shot several times as they sat in a car at Lake Juliette. He said what he did was senseless.

"I'm sorry," Cook said as he was strapped to a gurney. "I'm not going to ask you to forgive me. I can't even do it myself."

He also thanked his family for "their support, for being with me and I'm sorry I took so much from you all."

The Georgia Appeals Court on Wednesday temporarily stayed Cook's execution to consider a challenge to the state's lethal injection procedure. But the Georgia Supreme Court lifted the stay Thursday and all other appeals were exhausted.

Cook's lawyers have argued at various stages in their appeals of his death sentence that he suffered from mental illness and was being treated for depression up to the time of his death.

Mary Hendrickson, mother of one of the victims, recently told television station WMAZ-TV in Macon she's been waiting 18 years for justice.

"I think that's what it was: the devil's work," she said. "When all that is going on, I was just thinking to myself: 'Well, the devil is not going to win. He's not going to win over my heart. He is not going to win.'"

The single-drug injection began at about 11:08 p.m. Cook blinked his eyes a few times, and his eyes soon got heavy. His chest was heaving for about 2 or 3 minutes as his eyes closed. Not too long after, two doctors examined him and nodded and Carl Humphrey, warden of the state prison in Jackson, pronounced him dead.

Corrections officials said shortly before the execution was scheduled to start that Cook had received visits from family Thursday and ate the last meal he had requested.

A Monroe County jury sentenced Cook to death after he was convicted in the January 2, 1995 slayings at Lake Juliette, which is about 75 miles south of Atlanta. Cook wasn't charged until more than 2 years later. He confessed to his father, a Macon FBI agent who ended up testifying at his son's trial.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reached out to John Cook in December 1995 because they were interested in speaking to his son. When he called his then-22-year-old son to tell him the GBI wanted to talk to him, he had no idea the younger man was considered a suspect.

"I said, 'Andy, the GBI is looking for you concerning the Lake Juliette homicide. Do you know anything about it?'" John Cook testified at his son's trial in March 1998. "He said, 'Daddy, I can't tell you. You're one of them. ... You're a cop.'"

Eventually, Andrew Cook told his father that he knew about the slayings, that he was there and that he knew who shot the couple, John Cook recalled.

"I just felt like the world was crashing in on me. But I felt maybe he was there and just saw what happened," he said. "I then asked, 'Did you shoot them?'

"After a pause on the phone, he said, 'Yes.'"

As a law enforcement officer, John Cook said he was forced to call his supervisor and contacted the Monroe County sheriff.

At the trial, as he walked away from the stand, the distraught father mouthed "I'm sorry" to the victims' families who were sitting on the front row of the Henry County courtroom. Several members of both families acknowledged his apology.

Cook becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death in Georgia and the 53rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Cook becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1323rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Athens Banner-Herald & Rick Halperin, February 21, 2013

Georgia executes Andrew Cook

Georgia Death Chamber
Andrew Cook was executed Thursday, 18 years after he randomly shot 2 Mercer University students who were parked at Lake Juliette in Monroe County as they were enjoying the view.

He was pronounced dead at 11:22 p.m. Cook's final words were apologies to his family and the families of the victims.

Cook was the 1st person Georgia has executed using a single massive dose of a sedative instead of a series of 3 drugs that had been used to execute 29 other men.

His death came after the U.S. Supreme Court had considered his plea for mercy for almost 5 hours. The appeal was sent to the high court before 6 p.m., an hour before his scheduled execution.

Cook was put to death 2 days after another condemned killer avoided lethal injection. On Tuesday, Warren Hill won a stay less than an hour before he was to have been executed for a 1990 murder he committed while he was in prison serving time for killing his 18-year-old girlfriend in 1986. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel voted 2-1 Tuesday to stop Hill's execution to allow time to consider whether he had "new evidence" that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is mentally retarded.

Cook, however, had no such issue to argue. His lawyers emphasized in their filings how much Cook had changed during his time in prison, that he had become spiritual while on death row and he wanted to help the families of his victims.

Cook was 20 years old on Jan. 2, 1995, when he fired 14 shots from an AR-15 and another 5 from a 9 mm Ruger and killed Grant Patrick Hendrickson and Michele Cartagena while they were parked at "the Point," a small peninsula that juts into Lake Juliette. After shooting the pair, Cook dragged Cartagena about 40 feet from the car, partially undressed her, knelt between her legs and spit on her, prosecutors said, in an attempt to make it look like a robbery and sex crime.

Cook had no connection to Hendrickson or Cartagena, so for 2 years investigators' only evidence was a report of a Honda CRX that was seen driving off, the types of weapons used and the DNA in the tobacco juice spit on Cartagena's leg.

Investigators came across Cook 2 years later while asking for DNA samples from people who owned weapons like those used to kill Henderson and Cartagena.

Because Cook would not cooperate, an investigator contacted Cook's father, then an FBI agent, for help. Andrew Cook confessed to his father and John Cook gave investigators the details and later testified in court.

According to pleadings filed in the final days before the execution, John Cook "did what he thought was right" and he never expected his son to get the death penalty; Andrew Cook offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole but the victims' families were opposed.

The pleadings filed unsuccessfully with the state Board of Pardons and Paroles in an attempt to save the 38-year-old made the argument that Andrew Cook had been abused by a step-father and ignored by his biological father while growing up, that he suffered depression since he was young boy and he was committed to a psychiatric hospital when he was 15. The court pleadings said he had great remorse for killing the couple and he had forgiven his father for testifying against him.

"Andy has chosen to see only the good intentions and sincere love of his father," his lawyers wrote in court filings and a plea to the Parole Board. "Rather than harboring bitterness toward his father, Andy has embraced him...Andy has never wavered in his support for his father."

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 21, 2013

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Iran: Three Hand Amputations, Four Hangings Carried Out in Qom

Iran: Woman Asylum Seeker Lashed 80 Times After Being Deported From Norway

Iran: Three executions carried out, two in front of large crowds

Gambia: President Barrow Signs Abolition Of Death Penalty Treaty

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Texas Child Killer John Battaglia Found Competent for Execution

Two Myanmar migrants make final appeal in Koh Tao murder case

Judge warns death row inmate to keep Nevada's execution manual secret

Seventeen Hanged in Various Iranian Prisons, One in Public

Kenya: Man to hang for stealing toothpaste and toothbrush