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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 death row inmate Rodricus Crawford out on bond after conviction overturned

Rodricus Crawford
Rodricus Crawford
Rodricus Crawford, a local man previously convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, was released from jail for now after a judge in Caddo District Court assigned him a $50,000 bond on Tuesday.

The Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office confirmed that Crawford bonded out of jail on Tuesday evening.

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

The Louisiana Supreme Court last week vacated the trial court's verdict, and now Crawford has the opportunity for a new trial. Crawford had been on death row in Angola. The case has drawn attention from the national media.

At the hearing on Tuesday, the defense requested that Crawford's bond be set at $25,000, while the prosecution asked for $50,000.

While Judge Brady O'Callaghan said the bond amount was "inappropriately low," he agreed to give the state's recommendation the benefit of the doubt.

"The charge against you is serious and has not been dismissed," O'Callaghan said to Crawford after setting the amount of the bond. "Please be prompt in all of your appearances."

According to the judge, an indictment is still pending.

Crawford's attorney, Cecelia Kappel, had no comment.

In a statement to The Times last week, 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."

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.

Sources: shreveporttimes.com, The Associated Press, November 23, 2016

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