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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 to Hear Two Major Death Penalty Cases

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear two cases raising major questions about the death penalty, including whether executing a condemned inmate more than 35 years after he was sentenced to death violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

That case, Moore v. Texas, No. 15-797, concerns Bobby J. Moore, who has been on death row since 1980 for shooting and killing an elderly Houston supermarket clerk, James McCarble, during a robbery. 

Mr. Moore’s case also raises questions about whether Texas uses outdated standards in assessing whether a defendant’s intellectual disability was severe enough to bar his execution.

The second case, Buck v. Stephens, No. 15-8049, concerns the role race may play in capital sentencing. 

Duane Buck was convicted of the 1995 murders of a former girlfriend and another man. Texas law allows death sentences only if prosecutors can show the defendant poses a future danger to society.

During the trial’s sentencing phase, Mr. Buck’s lawyer presented testimony from a psychologist who said that race is one of the factors associated with future dangerousness. I

n their petition seeking Supreme Court review, Mr. Buck’s new lawyers said his trial lawyer had been ineffective and that Mr. Buck’s death sentence was infected by racial bias.

Source: The New York Times, Adam Liptak, June 6, 2016

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