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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…

Unable to Obtain Drugs, Ohio Suspends Executions

Ohio is extending its moratorium on capital punishment until at least 2017 because of difficulties obtaining the drugs needed to carry out executions, the state prisons agency said on Monday.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said that 11 inmates who were scheduled to be executed next year would be put to death between 2017 and 2019. A man who was set to be put to death in January 2017 is now scheduled to die in 2019, according to the revised list.

The first person scheduled to die under the new timeline is Ronald Phillips, who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 3-year-girl. Mr. Phillips, who was to be executed on Jan. 20, 2016, now faces death on Jan. 12, 2017.

Ohio has not executed an inmate since Jan. 16, 2014, when Dennis McGuire choked, gasped and clenched his fists for more than 20 minutes before succumbing to a combination of drugs being used for the first time in an execution in the United States. Executions by lethal injection typically take 10 to 15 minutes.

Mr. McGuire was put to death by lethal injection with a new and untried cocktail mixed with midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, an opioid derived from morphine.

Officials said in January that the state would switch to pentobarbital, a barbiturate, or sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, both previously used for executions. But continuing difficulties have forced them to delay executions since Mr. McGuire’s death.

State prison officials obtained a license from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to import sodium thiopental, which is not available in the United States. But the Food and Drug Administration warned that it was illegal for states to import drugs to be used in lethal injections.

On Monday, officials said the agency was continuing to “seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions, but over the past few years it has become exceedingly difficult to secure those drugs because of severe supply and distribution restrictions.”


Source: The New York Times, Ashley Southall, October 19, 2015

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