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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…

Missouri: July 14, scheduled execution of David Zink

David Zink
David Zink
Missouri plans to execute David Zink on Tuesday, July 14 for the murder of Amanda Morton. Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) condemns his wrongdoing and mourns with her loved ones over her violent passing. Killing him, however, only perpetuates a vengeful cycle of violence, suggests more death promotes healing and ignores the additional suffering the execution would cause his family members and others who care for Mr. Zink.

Other issues worth considering and further meriting mercy include:

- Jurors were Unaware of Brain Damage from Serious Childhood Illness. As a 3-year old, David Zink contracted meningitis/encephalitis, leading to an 8-day hospitalization, according to his clemency petition to Gov. Nixon. Neuropsychologist D. Malcolm Spica, who recently evaluated him, confirmed the illness very likely led to organic brain damage as demonstrated in cognitive tests. In one he performed in the first percentile, meaning that 99% of subjects do better in so-called executive functioning, including the abilities to control impulses, process complicated information and make decisions.

- Represented Self in Trial Due to Public Defender Neglect. Mr. Zink was to be represented by the Western Capital Division of the Missouri Public Defender System when the office was in turmoil. Requests from initial attorneys for resources were denied; continuances by attorneys delayed the trial. Unaware of office infighting, the mentally-impaired defendant became so frustrated he opted to represent himself—a request the judge honored. His public defenders chose not to acknowledge to the trial judge their inability to “successfully represent Mr. Zink” because they did not want judicial interference with managing their system, the petition notes. “Mr. Zink was sacrificed to the organizational concerns.”

- Model Prisoner Who Could Spend Life in Prison. Mr. Zink has had no significant conduct violations after being sent to prison and has lived nearly all his time in the Honors Dorm. The psychologist reports, “Mr. Zink is likely to continue functioning well in a highly structured environment (which) decreases the need for complex problem-solving under pressure.” Eighteen prisoners submitted affidavits of support noting he helps keep the peace, provides a positive role model, is always respectful of guards and has shown genuine remorse for the murder.

Actions Needed Immediately
  • Contact Governor Nixon to urge that he stay Mr. Zink’s execution. Call 573-751-3222
  • Contact Attorney General Chris Koster to urge that he ensure justice by facilitating the stay. Call 573-751-3321.

Source: MADP, July 7, 2015

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

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