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…

Texas executes Suzanne Basso

Suzanne Basso
Capital murder defendant Suzanne Basso was executed in Huntsville, Texas Wednesday for the brutal 1998 slaying of a mentally disabled man, becoming only the 14th woman to be put to death since 1976. By comparison, almost 1,400 men have been put to death.

She was pronounced dead at 6:26 pm, 11 minutes after the lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered.

Before being put to death, Basso told a warden who stood near her, "No sir," when asked to make a final statement.

She appeared to be holding back tears, then smiled at 2 friends watching through a window. She mouthed a brief word to them and nodded.

As the lethal dose of pentobarbital took effect, Basso, dressed in a white prison uniform, began to snore. Her deep snoring became less audible and eventually stopped.

Basso was convicted in 1999 of leading a group of thugs in torturing and killing Louis 'Buddy' Musso, 59, so they could cash his life insurance policy.

Basso's lawyer argued that the 59-year-old woman was not mentally competent enough to face execution because she suffered from delusions, and that the state statute governing competency was unconstitutionally flawed. He also challenged the legality of a medical examiner's testimony.

Her lawyer said a degenerative disease left her paralyzed, but Basso, who uses a wheelchair, blamed her paralysis on a jail beating years ago. At a competency hearing two months ago, she testified from a hospital bed wheeled into a Houston courtroom and talked about a snake smuggled into a prison hospital in an attempt to kill her.

At her trial, Basso was portrayed as the ringleader of a group of people who fatally tortured Musso in 1998 to steal his money.

Musso, who had the intellect of a 7-year-old child but cared for himself, had met either Basso or her son at a church carnival in New Jersey. He left there to move in with her in Jacinto City, just east of Houston.

‘She lured him to Texas with the idea they'd get married,’ Barnett said.

Evidence showed that she already was married, made herself the beneficiary of insurance policies purchased for Musso and took over his Social Security benefits.

Five others, including Basso's son, also were convicted for Musso's death. Prosecutors sought the death penalty only for Basso. Her accomplices are serving prison terms ranging from 20 years to life.

Court documents detailed extensive abuse Musso endured days before his body was found in a ditch by a jogger.

He'd been bathed in a solution of bleach and pine cleaner and scrubbed with a wire brush. An autopsy showed he had at least 17 cuts to his head; 28 cuts and cigarette burns on his back; bruises all over his body; a skull fracture; a fractured bone in his neck; 14 broken ribs and two dislocated vertebrae.

Basso became a suspect after reporting Musso missing in an apparent attempt to distance herself from his slaying once his body was discovered. She confessed to driving Musso's mutilated body to a nearby ditch, where it was discovered a few days later.

Basso becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 510th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Basso becomes the 271st condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Basso becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1366th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Daily Mail, Rick Halperin, AP, Feb. 5, 2014

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