Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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…

Bahamas: Judge Spares Death Penalty, Laments Violent Crime Trend

A judge who spared a 22-year-old man the death penalty yesterday in connection with a 2012 murder case expressed concern at an increasing trend of young men under the age of 30 being tried and convicted of violent crimes.

Justice Indra Charles had been asked by prosecutor Uel Johnson to impose the death sentence on Livingston Woodside for the June 3, 2012 shooting death of Owen Rose Sr.

Rose, of Elizabeth Estates, was found dead that night at Washington Street with gunshot wounds in his body.

It was the Crown's case that the murder was a paid execution with Woodside, who was 19 at the time, pulling the trigger. His alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Glenardo Johnson was 16.

A jury unanimously convicted both men of murder on May 1, 2015.

The judge sentenced Woodside to 40 years and Johnson to 35 years imprisonment at the Department of Correctional Services to run from the date of conviction.

Both were credited 3 years for time spent on remand prior to conviction, reducing their respective sentences to 37 and 32 years.

"One cannot restate the number of murders committed in this country by young men like the ones in the prisoner's box," Justice Indra Charles stressed.

"It bothers me why so many young men are continuously before this court. It's very rare to see someone who is 30 years old charged with these crimes. The trend, it seems, is to see them much younger as even teens are appearing in Supreme Court and it appears to me that message we (the court) are sending out is not sounding."

"The court should be cognisant of the fact that just about every day the newspapers read murder," the judge also stressed.

Justice Charles said notwithstanding these serious concerns, "each case must be determined on its own peculiar facts."

"The Crown did seek the death penalty for Woodside. However, the court is of the firm view that because of his young age, he's not a candidate for the death penalty."

The judge acknowledged the 2011 amendment to the Penal Code, which followed the Privy Council's decision in the Maxo Tido decision, which notes that only certain types of aggravated murder are currently punishable by death. These include murder of a law enforcement officer; murder of a judicial officer, including judges, registrars and prosecutors; murder of a witness or juror; murder of more than 1 person; murder committed by a defendant who has a prior murder conviction; and murder in exchange for value.

"The amendment further provides that any murder committed in the course of/or in furtherance of a robbery, rape, kidnapping, terrorist act, or any other felony is punishable by death, with no explicit requirement of intent to cause death.

"Justice Charles said the appellate court, in its Simeon Bain decision, ruled that the crimes named in amendments met the threshold of consideration of the imposition of the death penalty.

"However, she also had to consider the case on its own merits and whether the circumstances determined it to be the "worst of the worst" and "rarest of the rare."

"Justice Charles said she also had to consider Woodside's reasonable prospects for reform as presented in a probation report given to the court.

"Despite the fact that this case qualifies for the death penalty, I don't think the death penalty should be imposed," the judge said.

"Johnson was told that because of a provision in law, he could potentially be released after serving 20 years following a review of his time in custody because the offence was committed as a juvenile.

Justice Charles ordered both men to enrol in anger management sessions as "both of you appeared to be angry throughout the trial."

Jiaram Mangra and Christina Galanos represented the pair at trial.

Johnson and Woodside have the right to appeal the conviction and sentences.

Source: tribune242.com, April 1, 2016

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