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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…

Sister Helen Prejean Says Tsarnaev Shows Remorse for Boston Bombing

Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
BOSTON — In a dramatic flourish at the end of the defense case, Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and prominent opponent of the death penalty, testified Monday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had expressed remorse for killing and maiming people at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

She met with him in prison five times, starting in March and, most recently, a few days ago. She said she had read up on the Quran and the Muslim faith and had been able to establish a relationship of trust with him.

“He said emphatically, no one deserves to suffer like they did,” she testified. She said she believed he was “absolutely sincere.”

Asked how his voice sounded as he said that, Sister Prejean, 76, said: “It had pain in it, actually, when he said what he did about nobody deserves that. I had every reason to think he was taking it in and he was genuinely sorry for what he did.”

Miriam Conrad, the defense lawyer who was leading Sister Prejean through the questioning, asked her whether she would tell the jury “he was truly remorseful” if she did not believe he was.

“No, I would not,” said Sister Prejean, whose book “Dead Man Walking” became the basis for a movie with Susan Sarandon.

The nun’s testimony was the first hint that the jury had heard that Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, had expressed any regret for his actions. Since jury selection began in January, Mr. Tsarnaev’s demeanor in court has been impassive. He has slouched in his chair and has seldom looked at witnesses, including those maimed by the bombs, or those whose loved ones were killed. He never took the stand himself.

The jury convicted him last month of all charges against him in connection with the attack, in which three people died and 264 others were wounded, including 17 who lost legs.

In this second phase of the trial, the government, which rested its case last month, wants the jury to sentence Mr. Tsarnaev to death. The defense is seeking a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The defense rested its case Monday after Sister Prejean’s testimony. The defense and prosecution are expected to make their closing arguments Wednesday, and the jury could begin deliberations Wednesday.


Source: The New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye, May 11, 2015

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