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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…

Texas executes Kent Sprouse

Kent Sprouse
Kent Sprouse
A troubled drug user who claimed he was mentally ill when he shot two men dead outside a Dallas-area convenience store in October 2002 was executed tonight in Huntsville, Texas.

Kent Sprouse, 42, was declared dead at 6:33 p.m.

Sprouse becomes the fifth person executed this year in Texas, which puts to death more inmates than any other state.

According to Texas prison officials his last words were: “I would like to apologise to the Moreno family and the Steinfeldt family for all of the trouble I have caused them. I would like to apologise to my family for all of the trouble that I have caused them. I would also like to thank my family for all of their support. I guess that’s it.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court in November refused to review Sprouse’s case, and the Boone County, Missouri, native didn’t have any appeals pending with his scheduled 6 p.m. execution just hours away.

Sprouse was sentenced to death for the October 2002 killing of 28-year-old Harry Marvin “Marty” Steinfeldt III, a police officer in Ferris, about 20 miles south of Dallas.

Witnesses said Sprouse carried a shotgun into the Ferris Food Mart store while he made a purchase and then walked outside and fired toward two men at a pay phone. He went to his car and appeared to have some trouble with it, then shot and killed 38-year-old Pedro Moreno, a customer who was pumping gas near him.

Steinfeldt responded to a 911 call about a customer shot at the store and came under gunfire. He was struck twice under the arm where his protective vest did not cover him. He managed to fire 17 shots, reloading his gun once, and wounded Sprouse in the chest, leg and hand.

Court records indicate Sprouse told an officer who accompanied him in an ambulance to a hospital that he believed Moreno was an undercover officer, so he shot him.

“And I shot the other officer that was in uniform,” Sprouse said, according to the records.

Sprouse was charged in Moreno’s killing, but wasn’t tried for it.

Tests showed that Sprouse had taken methamphetamines and other illegal drugs within 48 hours of the killings.

Jim Jenkins, who was Sprouse’s lead lawyer at his trial in Steinfeldt’s death, said Sprouse suffered from the effects of methamphetamine addiction.

“It’s very addictive and easy to get and sort of melts your brain after a while,” Jenkins said last week, recalling the case.

“He just didn’t know what he was doing, but the jury has to buy that. It’s sort of like being drunk and killing somebody. That’s really not a defense, not a legal defense. … The whole thing is extremely sad.”

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said a recent purchase of pentobarbital means they have enough of the sedative to carry out three other executions set for this month, including one next week. But at least three more are set for May and June, meaning they would have to find a new supply or switch to a different drug to carry out those executions on schedule.

Death penalty states have found it increasingly difficult to acquire execution drugs because traditional manufacturers now refuse to sell their drugs for use in executions. States now rely on compounding pharmacies for their made-to-order execution drugs.

Sprouse becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 523rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Sprouse becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Greg Abbott became governor earlier this year.

Sprouse becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1405 overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Epoch Times, The Guardian, Rick Halperin, April 9, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

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