Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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…

Dexter Lewis verdict sends a message on Colorado's death penalty

James E. Holmes (left), Dexter Lewis (right)
James E. Holmes (left), Dexter Lewis (right)
For the 2nd time this summer, a first-rate team of Colorado prosecutors could not secure a death sentence for the perpetrator of crimes of almost indescribable horror.

Dexter Lewis, like James Holmes, will spend the rest of his life behind bars instead. Never mind that he is guilty of stabbing 5 people to death 3 years ago in an orgy of utter depravity. 1 or more jurors obviously concluded that his woefully sad and painful childhood made him an inappropriate candidate for capital punishment.

This is no criticism of the jury. That conclusion is entirely defensible and perhaps even predictable - just as it was always plausible that defense attorneys would convince at least one juror in Holmes' trial that he was too mentally ill to be put to death.

Moreover, a death sentence for Lewis - a black man - would have raised equity questions after Holmes, who is white, was able to secure life without parole.

But if both verdicts in those cases are reasonable, what do they say about the death penalty statute in Colorado?

They say that it's in tatters.

They say a prosecutor would have to be very reckless to seek the death penalty anytime soon in this state.

They say it's time to rethink whether we should have such a sentence on the books.

There will never be crimes any worse than those committed by Holmes and Lewis. There may be crimes that are their equal in cruelty, but how often are they likely to occur? And why should those criminals be put to death if Holmes and Lewis were not?

Is the death penalty really only for people who commit crimes of similar magnitude who are neither mentally ill nor the product of childhood abuse? How often do such monsters come around?

The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn't happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.

Source: Denver Post Editorial Board, August 28, 2015

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

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