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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…

North Carolina prosecutor who sent 5 to death row: It's time to end death penalty

Vince Rabil
Vince Rabil
25 years ago, as an assistant district attorney in Forsyth County, Vince Rabil helped put Blanche Taylor Moore on death row. 

Today, Rabil says it is time to end the death penalty and calls Moore - a frail 82-year-old still sitting on death row - "a living monument to the failure of a vanishing legal remedy."

In an op-ed published Sunday, Rabil repudiates a punishment that he spent nearly 2 decades of his career fighting to uphold. In the 1990s, he prosecuted a dozen people for the death penalty and put at least 5 on death row. Four remain there today.

Rabil believed so strongly in the death penalty that, in 1997, he became the 1st prosecutor in the country to seek death for a drunk driver. "This will seriously make everyone stop after the 1st drink or the 2nd one," he said at the time.

Now, Rabil says the death penalty is a broken system that costs taxpayers dearly, threatens innocent defendants, and does little to comfort the grieving families of victims. He says life with no possibility of parole is a more appropriate replacement.

Rabil's transformation reveals how much our state has evolved since the 1990s, when a blind faith in the capital punishment system allowed us to sentence dozens of people a year to die. 

This year, N.C. juries didn't hand down a single death sentence, executions remained on hold for a 9th year, and public opposition to the death penalty reached its highest point since the 1970s. In North Carolina, even a Republican legislator came out against capital punishment.

At the same time, Rabil's courageous stance against the death penalty marks a turning point in North Carolina. While many prosecutors, current and former, no doubt have serious concerns about the death penalty, Rabil is the 1st in our state to take such a public stand.

We applaud Rabil for speaking the truth that so many others are afraid to admit.

Source: nccadp, December 14, 2015

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