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 State Supreme Court Considers Execution Drug

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously agreed Monday to reconsider a stay of execution. It's for death row inmate Warren Lee Hill. One expert says the case could halt all of Georgia's executions.

A new state law makes certain information about drugs used in executions a "confidential state secret".

Many companies are reluctant to make such drugs, fearing a public backlash. Lawmakers want to keep the information confidential to ensure a supply.

Georgia's supply of pentobarbital has expired. Hill's attorneys argue they should get more information about the compounding of the new drug to ensure it won't cause pain and suffering during the death penalty. A Fulton County judge agreed to stay his execution. But now the state is appealing that ruling.

UGA law professor emeritus Ronald Carlson says if the State Supreme Court sustains Hill's argument, it will have major implications for all death row inmates in Georgia.

He says "All death row sentences will go on hold until the compound that's going to be used in these lethal injections gets legitimated or clarified. This may be simply the start of a process that could last for some time."

Carlson says if the state Supreme Court does support Hill's claim the General Assembly might have to go back and change the law.

Carlson says this is an important constitutional question. "The public does not know what the new drug will be consisting of and how it's compounded." He says "These are legitimate concerns. Not that they are concerns that will ultimately wind up in freeing Warren Lee Hill. But certainly they are concerns that a state Supreme Court ought to take a look at."

Carlson says it's likely that oral arguments won't be heard until December or January.

The State Supreme Court is asking the parties to address 4 questions.

Is the case moot since the current supply of pentobarbital has expired and is it unclear how the state would obtain a new supply of execution drugs?

Did the Fulton County Superior Court have the authority to stay Hill's execution?

Could the whole issue of the statute's constitutionality be avoided if Hill were given a sample of the drug for testing or given other information the statute does not prohibit?

Did Fulton County Judge Gail Tusan err by issuing the stay based on Hill's challenge of the statute's constitutionality?

A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's office says they aren't commenting. They will let the case play out in court.

Source: GPB News, August 28, 2013

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