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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…

Washington and Lee law professor to represent Charleston church shooting defendant

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The accused shooter is the latest notorious defendant to be represented by David Bruck.

A Washington and Lee University law professor is defending the man charged with federal hate crimes in the fatal shootings of nine people during a Bible study at a historic African-American church.

David Bruck was appointed lead attorney for Dylann Roof because of his "extensive experience" in death penalty cases across the country, Judge Richard Gergel wrote in a July 23 order filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina.

At W&L, Bruck directs the Virginia Capital Case Clearing House, a law school program that serves as a resource center for court-appointed defense lawyers in death penalty cases.

Bruck has also been in the national spotlight as a member of the defense team for several high-profile defendants. Earlier this year, he represented Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

The case involving Roof is equally notorious, not just for the alleged crime but also for the impact it had on many communities - including Lexington and the W&L campus - that were thrust into a debate over the display of the Confederate battle flag, which has been linked to the defendant's motives.

Bruck, who is representing Roof in federal court along with Charleston attorney Michael O'Connell, declined to comment Tuesday.

In addition to the federal hate crime charges, Roof is facing murder charges in state court, where prosecutors have said they will seek the death sentence in a trial set for next July. No trial date has been set in federal court, and prosecutors there have not indicated whether they will seek the death penalty.

A separate team of attorneys is representing Roof on the state charges.

Roof, a 21-year-old white man, is accused in the June 17 slayings of 9 black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Authorities say he was invited to participate in a Bible class study, where he interacted with his victims for nearly an hour before opening fire on them.

An indictment filed in Charleston's federal court alleges that Roof selected his victims based on their race and sought them out at a historic African-American church "in order to make his attack more notorious."

The indictment cites a manuscript that Roof posted online, espousing his racist beliefs and containing photographs of him holding a Confederate flag, in alleging that he intended to increase racial tensions across the country.

What happened was a backlash against the Confederate flag, with calls for its removal from public buildings and other places.

In Lexington, W&L officials decided in August not to lease the school's Lee Chapel to a Sons of Confederate Veterans Group for a Lee-Jackson Day celebration, citing ongoing tensions over the flag that began before the Charleston church shootings. A local controversy also erupted in mid-July when a man who flies a huge Confederate flag on his private land proclaimed in a newspaper advertisement that blacks and Democrats were banned from his property because "of all the trouble" they had been causing.

Bruck joined W&L's law school in 2004. He has ties to South Carolina, having practiced law in Columbia for nearly 30 years. In 1995, he represented Susan Smith, who was convicted of drowning her 2 small children in a lake, where she drove them in her car before attempting to blame a fictitious carjacker for their deaths.

In both the Smith and Tsarnaev cases, Bruck teamed up with Judy Clarke, another well-known death penalty lawyer who in the past has been a visiting professor at W&L.

Source: The Roanoke Times, Sept. 30, 2015

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

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