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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…

Death penalty arguments to be heard by Delaware Supreme Court

The Delaware Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of the state's death penalty today, bringing an issue that has been debated for months closer to conclusion - and potentially opening up a whole new deliberation.

Rauf v. State of Delaware will be argued at 9:30, with the Department of Justice and Public Defender's Office representing opposing sides. 

The Department of Justice contends the state's capital punishment statute is not in violation of the U.S. Constitution, while the Public Defender's Office believes it contradicts the right to jury trial.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty is unconstitutional because it allows the judge to sentence death. Delaware's death penalty law has similarities to Florida's, with a judge having some sway over whether to sentence a person to death.

Even if the court rules that portion of the law is unconstitutional, it may not strike down the death penalty as a whole. If the justices hold, however, the language in question is invalid and cannot be separated from the greater death penalty provision, capital punishment in the state would be at least temporarily eliminated.

Responsibility would fall to the General Assembly to craft a new law, and there may be enough opponents of capital punishment in the two Democratic-controlled chambers to block an attempt to overhaul the law.

Santino Ceccotti and Elizabeth McFarlan are the lead attorneys for the Public Defender and Justice Department, respectively.

Source: Delaware State News, June 15, 2016


Delaware justices hear arguments on death penalty law

Delaware's Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the state's death penalty.

The court agreed in January to answer questions from Delaware's Superior Court to determine whether the state's death penalty law meets constitutional muster. Meanwhile, all death penalty trials in Delaware are on hold.

Questions were raised about the constitutionality of Delaware's law after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing statute. That statute required a judge, not a jury, to find the factual existence of an "aggravating circumstance" making a defendant eligible for the death penalty.

Delaware's law is similar to Florida's, but prosecutors argue that it nevertheless is constitutional.

In advance of Wednesday's hearing, the court accepted written briefs from the attorney general's office and public defender's office.

Source: Associated Press, June 15, 2016

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