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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 tells Alabama appeals court to reconsider death penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court has directed that an Alabama appeals court reconsider a death penalty case in light of its January 2016 ruling that found Florida's death penalty system is unconstitutional.

That ruling in Hurst vs. Florida, faulted Florida for letting a judge, not a jury, determine the punishment. The court found that system unconstitutional.

Today, the high court directed the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider the death sentence for Bart Johnson, who was convicted in 2011 of killing a Pelham Police Department officer in 2009. The court's order said the appeals court should consider the case, "in light of Hurst vs. Florida."

Alabama's death penalty system is very similar to Florida's. Today's order could have far-reaching implications for the state's death penalty system.

The Alabama Attorney General's office has argued the Florida ruling doesn't apply to Alabama since a jury - even if it recommends against a death sentence - has to find an aggravating factor in order to convict a defendant of capital murder.

Under Alabama's death penalty system the same jury that convicts someone of capital murder is then asked to consider aggravating and mitigating factors in determining if the death penalty or life in prison without parole is the right sentence.

Alabama law requires 10 out of 12 jurors for a death penalty recommendation. But either way, the judge gets the final say on sentencing and can overrule the jury's recommendation.

10 of 12 jurors in the Johnson case recommended the death penalty and the judge agreed.

Source: WHNT news, May 2, 2016

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