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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…

Boston Marathon bombing case to be back in federal court in December

The case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be back in federal court in Boston next month.

US District Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 1 on several motions filed after Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in June.

One of the motions is a request by prosecutors to order Tsarnaev to pay restitution to his victims, a largely symbolic gesture given Tsarnaev's lack of assets. Prosecutors have not disclosed the amount they are seeking, but it is expected to be in the millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, Tsarnaev's lawyers have asked the judge to extend attorney-client privileges they had with Tsarnaev while he was on trial. Tsarnaev is now being held under tight security measures, and his lawyers argue that tighter restrictions proposed by the US Department of Justice would interfere with attorney client privileges that any prisoner is entitled to, such as the ability to examine work documents with his lawyers.

O'Toole has also agreed to hear arguments on Tsarnaev's motion for a new trial. Such a motion is typical in any criminal case - Tsarnaev's lawyers continue to argue that his trial should have been moved outside of Boston - but O'Toole has agreed to hear arguments solely related to a recent Supreme Court decision that may have redefined some of the charges Tsarnaev was convicted of.

In a June decision, the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of a law that called for tougher penalties for the use of a firearm or explosive in a crime of violence, finding that the law is too broad and constitutionally vague. Tsarnaev's lawyers argue that the decision applies to 15 of the charges of which Tsarnaev was convicted. Though Tsarnaev was sentenced to death on separate charges, his lawyers argue that the jury could have been influenced by the 15 charges that were affected by the Supreme Court decision.

It was not immediately clear if Tsarnaev will attend the Dec. 1 hearing.

Tsarnaev, 22, admitted his role in the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed 3 people and injured more than 260, the fatal shooting of an MIT police officer, and a firefight with police in Watertown. His lawyers argued that Tsarnaev did not deserve the death penalty because he was influenced by his older brother, who was killed during the confrontation in Watertown.

Tsarnaev is being held at the federal supermax prison in Colorado while he appeals his death sentence.

Source: Boston Globe, November 14, 2015

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