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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…

Oklahoma governor signs 'foolproof' nitrogen gas execution method

The state is the first to approve nitrogen-induced hypoxia for use on death-row inmates, which supporters says is ‘painless’ despite lack of human testing

Oklahoma became the first US state to approve nitrogen gas for executions under a measure Governor Mary Fallin signed into law Friday that provides an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren’t possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage.

Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the US supreme court considers whether the state’s current three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional. Supporters of the new law maintain nitrogen-induced hypoxia is a humane and painless method of execution that requires no medical expertise to perform.

“Oklahoma executes murderers whose crimes are especially heinous,” Fallin said in a statement announcing that she had signed the bill into law.

“I support that policy, and I believe capital punishment must be performed effectively and without cruelty. The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard.”

The bill authored by Republican representative Mike Christian and Republican senator Anthony Sykes had passed the state house on an 85-10 vote and cleared the senate on a 41-0 vote.

There are no reports of nitrogen gas ever being used to execute humans, and critics say that one concern is that the method is untested. Some states even ban its use to put animals to sleep.

But supporters of Oklahoma’s plan argue that nitrogen-induced hypoxia – or a lack of oxygen in the blood – is a humane execution method.

“The process is fast and painless,” said Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who wrote the bill. “It’s foolproof.”

Opponents say there’s no way to know whether the method is painless and effective.

“It just hasn’t been tried, so we don’t know,” said represenative Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman who opposes the death penalty.


Source: The Guardian, April 18, 2015

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