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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…

One of the last grim scenes of the Civil War was caught on camera

Four conspirators in President Lincoln’s assassination are hanged July 7, 1865.
Four conspirators in President Lincoln’s assassination are hanged July 7, 1865.
It was a blazing hot July afternoon, and the condemned were led in irons from the Washington penitentiary about 1 p.m.

They passed the pre-dug graves and the stack of gun crates that would serve as their coffins and climbed the steps of the wooden gallows that had been built overnight.

Shuffling onto the crowded platform, they were hooded and bound with strips of white cloth. Nooses were slipped over their heads.

The three men and one woman had been found guilty of conspiracy in the assassination of “the late president, Abraham Lincoln,” as official documents put it.

A century and a half ago this month — on July 7, 1865 — one of the last grim scenes in the tragedy of the Civil War was played out — and caught on camera — at what is now Fort McNair, in Southwest Washington.

Mary E. Surratt — the first woman to be executed by the federal government — Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt and David Herold had been convicted by a military tribunal of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the murder of Lincoln.

Booth had been killed 10 weeks earlier while trying to escape, after shooting Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre on April 14.

All the condemned were local Southern sympathizers implicated in the plans, first to kidnap Lincoln and later to kill him, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward.

Seward survived a brutal knife attack by Powell the night Lincoln was shot. Johnson escaped harm when Atzerodt lost his nerve and failed to execute his part of the operation.

Herold had helped Booth escape and was “the getaway guy,” as one expert put it.

And by most accounts, Surratt knew of the plot and abetted the plotters from her boarding house on H Street NW.

The four were lined up — their arms handcuffed, their feet shackled — as an officer read the execution order and the photographer, Alexander Gardner, aimed two cameras from about 100 feet away.


Source: The Washington Post, Michal E. Ruane, July 4, 2015

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