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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…

Judge allows Dylann Roof flip-flop on lawyers in guilt phase of death penalty trial

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A federal judge has approved the request of the alleged Charleston church shooter to bring back his lawyers, one week after he asked to have them dismissed.

In a handwritten request filed on Sunday, 22-year-old Dylann Roof asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to bring his defense team back on board for the guilt phase of his federal death penalty trial, which begins next week in Charleston.

Roof will be allowed to go back to representing himself for the penalty phase. Gergel agreed Monday, but warned Roof that he can’t change his mind again.

Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty. Such cases are split into two parts: the guilt phase, and then a separate portion that focuses on whether the defendant will be sentenced to death, or life in prison.

The request came a week after a federal judge allowed Roof to represent himself in the June 2015 slayings at Emanuel AME Church. CBS Charleston affiliate WCSC-TV had reported that Roof, facing 33 charges including hate crime and murder, told Judge Gergel that he had reviewed the order that declared him competent to stand trial, and that he felt ready to represent himself.

Gergel told Roof in court that he felt the decision to be “strategically unwise,” but he ultimately granted Roof permission to represent himself at trial.

Ever since then, his high-powered legal team has sought to play a larger role in his defense, saying late last week they feared Roof wouldn’t introduce evidence that could possibly spare his life.

Authorities have said Roof killed the parishioners in a racially motivated attack at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. After an hour of Bible study and prayer, authorities say Roof hurled racial slurs during the shooting and left three people alive so they could tell the world the killings were because he hated black people.

Final jury selection and opening statements in Roof’s federal trial on dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion, are scheduled to begin Wednesday. He also faces a death penalty trial on state murder charges.

Source: CBS News, December 5, 2016

Prosecutors say they need 7 days in church case


CHARLESTON, S.C. — Prosecutors estimate it will take about seven days to present their case against Dylann Roof, who is charged with hate crimes in the fatal shooting of nine black parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last year.

Roof’s lawyers were put back on the case Monday by the judge after Roof requested it. They said they wouldn’t need much time to prepare for the guilt phase of Roof’s trial, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Roof, meaning there will be a second, penalty phase of the trial if he’s found guilty. For that part, Roof wants to go back to being his own lawyer.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also ruled Monday that Roof’s parents, grandmother and grandfather can remain in the courtroom during the trial even though they’re potential witnesses. All other witnesses must stay out until they testify. Roof’s grandfather is a lawyer.

Source: Associated Press, December 5, 2016

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