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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…

U.S. Supreme Court declines death penalty case

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The appeal was filed on behalf of Shonda Walter, who was sentenced to death in May 2006 for murdering her next door neighbor with a hatchet and stealing his car.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania upheld the lower court's death sentence, saying the court found the evidence sufficient to support her conviction for 1st-degree murder.

In appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, Walter asked the justices to weigh in on whether the imposition of the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The court did not give any statement supporting or dissenting from its decision to reject the case.

Court watchers have been expecting the justices to take up the constitutionality of the death penalty in light of a dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer last year. Experts said Breyer's dissent provided a blueprint for a broad challenge to capital punishment.

Justice Antonin Scalia, a member of the court's conservative wing, said in September that he "wouldn't be surprised" if the court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, suggesting there are at least 4 justices who hold that view.

The court appears to be waiting for the right case to weigh in.

The case that was declined on Monday is Walter v. Pennsylvania.

Source: AP, January 25, 2016


Supreme Court Rejects Appeal to Outlaw Death Penalty

The Supreme Court is rejecting a Pennsylvania inmate's appeal to consider banning the death penalty across the United States.

The justices did not comment Monday in turning away a challenge from death row inmate Shonda Walter.

Walter's appeal plays off Justice Stephen Breyer's call in an impassioned dissent in June to re-evaluate the death penalty in light of problems involving its imposition and use.

Breyer renewed his plea last week when he was the lone justice willing to give a last-minute reprieve to an Alabama death row inmate who was later put to death.

Source: Associated Press, January 25, 2016

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