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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…

America's 10 Worst Prisons: Polunsky

Typical Polunsky Death Row Cell
"The most lethal [death row] anywhere in the democratic world" is also probably "the hardest place to do time in Texas," writes Robert Perkinson, author of the book TexasTough. Indeed, the all-solitary Allan B. Polunsky Unit houses condemned Texans under some of the nation's harshest death row conditions. The prisoners are housed in single cells on 22-hour-a-day lockdown, and even during their daily "recreation" hour, they are confined in separate cages. With no access to phones, televisions, contact visits, they remain in essentially a concrete tomb (PDF) until execution day—a stretch of at least three years for the mandatory appeals, and far longer if they opt to keep fighting. Some have been known to commit suicide or waive their appeals rather than continue living under such conditions.

The backlash: At Polunsky, the "emotional torture" of awaiting death in total isolation is "driving men out of their minds," former prisoner Anthony Graves told senators last year at the first-ever Judiciary Committee hearing on solitary confinement. "I would watch guys come to prison totally sane and in three years they don't live in the real world anymore," recalled Graves, who was exonerated in 2010, after spending more than 18 years on death row.

Graves detailed for the senators some of the profoundly erratic behavior of his fellow prisoners. "I know a guy who would sit in the middle of the floor, rip his sheet up, wrap it around himself, and light it on fire. Another guy…would take his feces and smear it all over his face as though he was in military combat."


Source: Mother Jones, May 2, 2013

Texas' death row is a disgrace to the State of Texas. Click here to view 50 recent annotated pictures of the 'living' conditions on Texas' death row. These photos were provided by the State of Texas in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by attorney Yolanda Torres. These photos were then posted on Thomas Whitaker's blog, "Minutes Before Six". Thomas Whitaker is currently on death row in the State of Texas.

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