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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…

Parents of Boy Killed at Boston Marathon Oppose Death Penalty for Tsarnaev

The Boston Marathon finish line minutes before the blast.
The Boston Marathon finish line minutes before the blast.
BOSTON — For the last few months, Bill and Denise Richard have let the government use the death of their son Martin to drive home the heinous and depraved nature of the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Martin, who was 8, was with his family, cheering on the runners, when the menacing figure of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev entered the picture. Videos shown in court showed Mr. Tsarnaev lurking behind the family for four minutes before a bomb went off, killing Martin.

The government showcased Martin’s death in its opening statement and closing argument at Mr. Tsarnaev’s trial. Prosecutors put Bill Richard on the stand. They had the medical examiner describe in excruciating detail what the bomb did to Martin. They showed the jury the burned clothes Martin had been wearing.

Now, as the government prepares to make its case for why Mr. Tsarnaev should be put to death, the Richard family says it has had enough. In an open letter to the Department of Justice, printed Friday on the front page of The Boston Globe, the Richards asked the government to stop seeking the death penalty.

“We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal,” they wrote.

They argued not against the death penalty itself but against what the continued pursuit of it would mean for them — endless appeals, never letting them move on, forcing their two other children “to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them.”

“As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours,” the couple wrote. “The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.”

The family all suffered in the explosion: Martin’s little sister, Jane, then 7, lost her left leg; his brother, Henry, then 9, witnessed unfathomable carnage; their mother, Denise, is blind in her right eye; their father, Bill, caught burning shrapnel in his legs, and his eardrums were perforated.

A jury convicted Mr. Tsarnaev on April 8 of all 30 counts against him in connection with the bombing, which killed two other people and injured 264 others, many of them grievously.


Source: The New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye, April 17, 2015

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