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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…

Alabama Supreme Court denies death row inmate's request to halt execution

Christopher Eugene Brooks
Christopher Eugene Brooks
The Alabama Supreme Court on Monday denied a death row inmate's request to halt his Jan. 21 execution.

A federal judge also said Monday that he would rule "expeditiously" on Alabama death row inmate Christopher Eugene Brooks' request for an emergency request to delay his execution.

If it happens, the execution would be the 1st in Alabama in 2-1/2 years. It also would be the 1st for Alabama's new drug combination for its lethal injection protocol.

Brooks had asked the Alabama Supreme Court and U.S. District Court Judge Keith Watkins to stay his execution.

Brooks' attorneys have argued that Brooks and 5 other inmates are waiting for a final evidentiary hearing on April 19 before Watkins on whether the state's new 3-drug lethal injection execution violates the constitution against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office has argued that while the other death row inmates had filed their lawsuits contesting the lethal injection combination about a year ago, Brooks didn't ask to intervene in the other inmates' suits until November in an apparent effort to delay his execution.

Watkins had set a hearing for Friday on Brook's motion for a stay of execution. But on Monday Watkins cancelled the hearing stating that the stay motion and the one by the Attorney General's Office seeking dismissal of Brooks' intervention in the other inmates' complaints can both be resolved without a hearing.

"An Order ruling on these 2 motions shall be entered expeditiously," Watkins wrote.

Brooks was convicted in 1993 of murder during the course of a rape, robbery, and burglary for killing Jo Deann Campbell at the Ski Lodge Apartments in Homewood. A jury recommended Brooks receive the death penalty and a judge sentenced him to death.

When he was sentenced Brooks bellowed at the victim's family that it "ain't over yet" before storming into the prisoners' passageway leading to the Jefferson County Jail.

Brooks and Campbell, 23, met in 1991 when they worked at different summer camps on a lake in New York, where Brooks and his parents then lived.

Brooks and a friend, Robert Leeper, came to Homewood on Dec. 30, 1992, to visit Campbell and stay the night.

The next evening, police found Campbell's body stuffed under her bed, her badly beaten head wrapped in her sweat pants. Police testified they found one of Brooks' palm prints on Campbell's ankle and his thumbprint in her blood on her bedroom doorknob. A state forensic scientist testified that DNA tests matched semen from Campbell's body to Brooks.

Police arrested Brooks and Leeper in Columbus, Ga., on charges that they bought beer, soda, gas and other items the day before with Campbell's credit card.

Leeper was charged but not indicted in the murder. Leeper denied any knowledge of Campbell's murder and forensic evidence did not link him to the crime prosecutors said. Leeper was sentenced to 5 years after pleading guilty to credit card theft and was released on probation with time served awaiting trial in jail.

Source: al.com, December 15, 2015

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