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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…

Missouri executes Andre Cole

Andre Cole
Andre Cole
(Reuters) - Missouri on Tuesday executed a man convicted of attacking his former wife over child support payments and killing her friend, a prison spokesman said.

Andre Cole, 52, was killed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 10:24 p.m. at the state's death chamber in Bonne Terre, Missouri. He became the 12th inmate executed in the U.S. and the third in Missouri in 2015.

Cole did not provide a final written statement, prison officials said.

Cole was divorced from his wife, Terri, in 1995. He fell $3,000 behind in child support for the couple's two children and his wages were ordered garnished, court records show.

After the first garnishment in August 1998, Cole broke into his ex-wife's home and stabbed her and a male friend repeatedly. The ex-wife survived but her friend did not. Cole was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree assault as well as armed criminal action and first-degree burglary, court records state.

Cole's attorneys argued that his death sentence was unfair because he was an African-American condemned to death by an all-white jury. They also argued that he suffered from psychosis, including hallucinations that affected his ability to understand why he was facing execution.

Although similar arguments were rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court last week, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled late Monday that Cole was incompetent to be executed because of mental illness.

"He hears voices over the TV, over the prison intercom. Everywhere," Cole's attorney, Joseph Luby, told The Associated Press. He said Cole believed that Gov. Jay Nixon, prosecutors and others "are giving him messages about his case."

Several outside groups, including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, were pushing Nixon to stop the execution and appoint a board to examine concerns about racial bias in Missouri's jury selection process. Cole was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury

But the Missouri Attorney General's Office quickly appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing there was no legal reason for the judge to overturn the Missouri Supreme Court ruling that allowed the execution to proceed.

In addition, Cole was one of several Missouri death row inmates who have alleged the state's lethal injection protocol violates a constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday evening denied a request for a stay of execution.

Sources: Reuters, AP, Rick Halperin, April 15, 2015

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