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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…

California votes “no” to get rid of death penalty, but “yes” to speed up executions

Death chamber, San Quentin State Prison, California
Death chamber, San Quentin State Prison, California
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A bid to abolish the death penalty in California appeared to be heading for defeat tonight, while a competing measure designed to speed up executions was being narrowly approved.

Proposition 62 would have repealed the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The initiative would have applied retroactively to people already sentenced to death, and would have required prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for murder to work while in prison.

Passage of the initiative would have resulted in a net reduction in state and local government costs of potentially around $150 million annually within a few years, according to an analysis conducted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.

“Because of all the problems with the death penalty, not a single person has been executed here in the last 10 years. Nonetheless, Californians continue to pay for it in many ways,” said initiative proponent Mike Farrell, a longtime death penalty opponent best known for his portrayal of Army Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt on the classic 1972-83 CBS comedy “M.A.S.H.”

“Whether you look at the death penalty from a taxpayer, a criminal justice or a civil rights perspective, what is clear is that it fails in every respect. We have to do better in California,” he said.

Meanwhile, voters were narrowly backing Proposition 66, which would not only maintain the death penalty, but take steps to expedite appeals to quicken the pace of executions.

The proposal would direct initial death-sentence appeals to a superior court judge, and limit the number of successive appeals. It would also establish a timeline for appeals, widen the field of appointed attorneys to handle death penalty appeals, and authorize the transfer of death row inmates among state prisons.

The last execution carried out in California was in 2006. Executions have been put on hold because of a 9th Circuit ruling requiring a medical professional to administer lethal injection drugs.

“We agree California’s current death penalty system is broken,” proponents of Proposition 66, including Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, contend in a ballot argument. “The most heinous criminals sit on death row for 30 years, with endless appeals delaying justice and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions.

“It does not need to be this way. The solution is to mend, not end, California’s death penalty.”

A measure to repeal the death penalty on the November 2012 ballot was rejected by a 52 percent-48 percent margin.

Source: CW6, November 8, 2016

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