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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 Supreme Court halts voter-approved death penalty measure

San Quentin Prison's death row
San Quentin Prison's death row
The California Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a voter-approved measure intended to speed up the appeals process for the state's death row inmates to give it time to consider a lawsuit challenging the measure.

In a one-page decision, the court stayed the "implementation of all provisions of Proposition 66" and set a timeline for filing briefs in the case.

Proposition 66 would change how appeals are handled, appointing more lawyers to take cases, putting certain types of appeals before trial court judges and setting a five-year deadline for appeals to be heard. 

Currently, it can take longer than that for an attorney to be assigned to a case and upward of 25 years to exhaust appeals.

The lawsuit by former California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs, whose father wrote the ballot measure that expanded California's death penalty in 1978, said the reform measure would disrupt the courts, cost more money and limit the ability to mount proper appeals.

They said the deadlines would set "an inordinately short timeline for the courts to review those complex cases" and result in attorneys cutting corners in their investigations.

Supporters of the measure have called the lawsuit a frivolous stall tactic.

California voters faced two death penalty measures in the November election. They rejected a measure that would have abolished the death penalty and narrowly approved Proposition 66.

Source: Associated Press, December 20, 2016

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