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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…

Prosecutor: No decision yet about death penalty in Charleston church shooting

Dylann Roof appeared in court in a video feed from a nearby jail.
Dylann Roof appeared in court in a video feed from a nearby jail.
The prosecutor who will pursue the case against the gunman accused of killing nine people inside a historic church in Charleston, S.C., said Friday she has not decided whether she will seek the death penalty in the case.

She said that decision would come at a later time, after she was able to speak to the relatives of the people killed Wednesday inside the church.

“My first obligation, my primary obligation is to these victims’ families,” said Scarlett A. Wilson, the prosecutor for Charleston County, at a news conference Friday afternoon. “They deserve to know the facts first. They deserve to be involved in any conversations regarding the death penalty.”

Wilson said it was too soon to begin these discussions.

“But now is not the time to have the conversations with them,” she said. “They need the time and the space to mourn and to grieve and we’re going to give them that.”

Wilson spoke shortly after the first bond hearing for Dylann Roof, who was arrested Thursday and has been charged with nine counts of murder. At the hearing, several relatives of the church victims stood to speak to Roof, offering him forgiveness and saying they were praying for him. Roof, who was appearing in a video feed from a nearby detention center, remained impassive, staring downward.

On Friday morning, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) described the shooting spree as “an absolute hate crime” and called on prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

South Carolina has the death penalty and carries out executions by lethal injection. State law says that prosecutors can seek the death penalty if there are certain “aggravating circumstances” in the case, and one of these aggravating circumstances is when the person in question is charged with murdering two or more people during a single act.

On Friday, the Justice Department said that it is investigating the shooting “from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic terrorism.”


Source: The Washington Post, Mark Berman, June 19, 2015

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