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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…

Justice Breyer and the Death Penalty

Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Justice Stephen G. Breyer
To the Editor:

Breyer Continues His Push Against the Death Penalty” (news article, Dec. 13), about Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissenting opinion in the case of Ronald B. Smith, who was recently executed in Alabama, is far too generous.

Twenty inmates have been executed in the United States in 2016. More than half (including a client of mine) have sought last-minute stays of execution from the Supreme Court (as Mr. Smith did). Justice Breyer recorded opposition in only three of these executions.

If Justice Breyer sincerely has constitutional reservations about the carrying out of the death penalty, he should do what other justices have done upon reaching a similar conclusion, by voting to prevent the execution from going forward.

Until his actual voting pattern demonstrates principled consistency, his on-again, off-again critique of the death penalty not only helps sustain an arbitrary system, but it also exemplifies it.

Source: The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, Letter, David R. Dow, December 22, 2016. The writer is a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

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