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…

Supreme Court Tackles Case Involving Ongoing Discrimination Against Black Jurors

The U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider a case involving discrimination against potential Black jurors, according to The Washington Post. The case involves Timothy Tyrone Foster, a Black teenager who was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly white woman in Georgia. Court records show the prosecutor deliberately struck Black candidates from the jury.

It's been reported that prosecutors prefer white jurors because they are more likely to vote for the death penalty. On the other hand, defense attorneys prefer Black jurors because they are more likely to vote against death penalty cases.

Foster's attorneys from the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta are arguing the case should be retried because Prosecutor Stephen Lanier kept Blacks from the jury. 

Foster was convicted by an all-white jury in 1987. The case has other racial overtones. According to The Washington Post, Lanier told jurors they had to convict Foster "to deter other people out there in the projects," which were 90 % Black.

Although a Supreme Court ruling 30 years ago made it illegal to bar someone from a jury because of their race, prosecutors have ways of ensuring all-white juries who are more favorable to voting for convictions. 

Some of the Black jurors in the Foster case were excluded for questionable reasons. The Post reported Marilyn Garrett was struck from the jury because Lanier claimed she was too close to Foster's age. Garrett was 34 and Foster was 19.

 Lanier accepted an all-white jury made up of 8 people who were 35 and under. One of the jurors was just 3 years older than Foster. 

Court records show Lanier had marked all the potential Black jurors names with a letter B. They were also highlighted in green and put at the top of the "definite no" list.

Considering the number of people who have been freed from death row, Black jurors are rightly skeptical of the criminal justice system.

A 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed Blacks and whites have starkly differing views on justice. The poll showed only 1 in 10 Blacks believed Blacks were fairly treated by the criminal justice system. However, 6 out of 10 whites believed the police treated all races equally.

Source: Atlanta Black Star, October 27, 2015

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