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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 bomber’s lawyers to argue for new trial

"Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado
"Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado
BOSTON — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are heading to court to urge a judge to grant him a new trial.

Judge George O’Toole Jr. is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in U.S. District Court, but only on the portion of Tsarnaev’s motion related to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued after Tsarnaev’s trial.

Three people were killed and more than 260 others were injured when twin bombs placed near the marathon finish line exploded on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 federal charges and sentenced to death for his role in the attack.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers argue that a Supreme Court ruling in June puts 15 of his convictions in jeopardy. The ruling centered on the legal definition of a “crime of violence,” a distinction that can carry stiffer penalties. The court struck down part of the definition as unconstitutionally vague.

Tsarnaev’s defense team says the ruling requires throwing out Tsarnaev’s convictions on those 15 counts. They also say he should get a new trial to decide his punishment because the jury’s imposition of the death penalty on other counts likely was influenced by the 15 counts related to crimes of violence.

“The defense is urging that the (Supreme Court) decision should be a catalyst to reopening the entire penalty phase. The argument is that these convictions are in jeopardy and that those counts somehow clouded the jury’s judgment on the death-eligible sentences, therefore, all of the sentences should be looked at again,” said Daniel Medwed, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

During the trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted that he and his older brother carried out the bombings, but said his brother was the mastermind and Dzhokhar did not deserve the death penalty.

Tsarnaev, 22, is being held at the federal Supermax prison in Colorado. He will not be brought to Massachusetts for the hearing.

In their motion for a new trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyers also argue that he deserves a trial in a different location because jurors in greater Boston could not be impartial due to intense pretrial publicity, local outrage over the attack and heavy media coverage during the trial of events marking the second anniversary of the bombings and the people who were injured.

The judge also will hear a motion from prosecutors to order Tsarnaev to pay restitution to the victims.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press, December 1, 2015

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