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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…

Louisiana Court Throws out Conviction in Controversial Death Sentence

Rodricus Crawford
Rodricus Crawford
The Louisiana Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out the conviction and death sentence of a man whose case drew national attention to the state's use of the death penalty.

In its decision , the court said it was sending the case of Rodricus Crawford back to a lower court for a new trial, citing racial discrimination issues in the prosecution's picking of jurors.

"I am so thankful that they did the right thing in this case. It was a terrible tragedy since Day 1, and his conviction was a total injustice and the court really stepped up and fixed it, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with the DA's office in order to reach a just outcome," said Cecelia Kappel, Crawford's attorney.

She said she had spoken to Crawford's family who called the court's decision "a miracle."

The case put Caddo Parish and former District Attorney Dale Cox in the spotlight over the use of the death penalty. The Death Penalty Information Center included Caddo Parish in a 2013 report about how 2 percent of U.S. counties were responsible for 56 % of the people on death row.

The Crawford case has drawn particular scrutiny, with defense attorneys and Crawford's supporters arguing there's no proof a crime even occurred.

Crawford was convicted of murdering his 1-year-old son. He told authorities he'd been sleeping next to his son and woke up to find him unresponsive in 2012. Prosecutors argued that Crawford smothered the boy. But the defense argued the boy had pneumonia and could have died from natural causes.

Defense attorneys also challenged the prosecution's exclusion of certain African-American jurors, and in the end the judges tossed out the conviction on that issue. But Kappel said she was heartened by the fact that some of the justices wanted to go even further and throw the case out for lack of evidence.

It was not immediately clear what the Caddo Parish district attorney's office would do next. A new district attorney was elected last year after Cox decided not to run for election; James E. Stewart became the parish's 1st black DA.

In a statement, Stewart did not say whether he would immediately push for a new trial. Noting the opinions of justices who wanted to acquit Crawford, Stewart said he would send it to a new assistant district attorney "...for re-evaluation of case in order to make a determination of a proper course of action to proceed forward in this matter."

Source: Associated Press, November 17, 2016

Caddo death row inmate to get a new trial


A local man convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death has been granted a new trial.

Rodricus Crawford was convicted in 2013 of the 1st-degree murder of his 1 year-old son, Roderius Lott.

In September, Cecelia Kappel, an attorney with the Capital Appeals Project, made arguments on his behalf.

The Louisiana Supreme Court issued an opinion Wednesday in the matter.

Crawford's convictions and sentences have been reversed.

In Kappel's September arguments on Crawford's behalf, she cited several portions of the case that fell to the high court to review. Examples included sufficiency of evidence, evidence of innocence and prosecuting attorney Dale Cox's statement that Jesus Christ himself would impose the death penalty. In all, 23 assignments of error were raised.

Following Crawford's trial, more evidence was discovered that called the prosecution's case into question.

In a case that has been cited as entirely circumstantial, Crawford's plight has drawn attention from the national media. It is 1 of several that allegedly highlights the high rates of cases resulting in death penalty sentences in Caddo Parish.

In a statement to The Times, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office said the case will be reassigned.

A new assistant district attorney will re-evaluate the case in order to make a determination on a proper course of action to proceed further in the matter.

"This case has been a tragedy from the start," Kappel said in a statement to The Times. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office in order to right this injustice."

Source: Shreveport Times, November 17, 2016

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