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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…

Trial reveals Roof's gun purchase went unchallenged by store owner

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
CHARLESTON, S.C. — In the middle of April 2015, Dylann Roof browsed a case filled with Glock pistols at a South Carolina gun store, spoke to a clerk and filled out the required federal paperwork for a purchase.

Three days later, after waiting for a background check, Roof returned to Shooter’s Choice to purchase the .45 caliber handgun. After walking out with the gun, he returned only moments later “cash in hand,” the general manager of the shop, Ronald Thrailkill, testified Monday morning.

The Glock that Roof purchased came packaged with three magazines. He had decided to buy two more.

Roof had turned 21 a little more than a week earlier, when his father gave him a card picturing an otter, in it a handwritten note, promising his son cash for a gun, partly congratulations for his new job.

“I.O.U. Good for up to $400 toward pistol & CWP (concealed weapons permit). I love you!” Franklin Bennett Roof wrote.

Two months after that trip to Shooter’s Choice, nine black parishioners of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were shot to death, during a Wednesday night Bible study, with the handgun Roof purchased. Investigators have testified Roof shot more 70 hollow point bullets in the church’s fellowship hall, many of them at people trying to hide under folding tables draped with white cloths.

Jurors on Monday began hearing a fourth day of testimony against Roof, an admitted white supremacist facing 33 federal charges, some relating to hate crimes and obstruction of religion in the deadly attack.

The government’s case might conclude Wednesday, prosecutors have said. Roof’s defense team is expected to offer few, if any witnesses, meaning the jury will likely begin deliberating this week.

Three days after completing the federal firearm application, personnel at Shooter’s Choice had not heard if the sale to Roof was approved or denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, an arm of the FBI that determines if a purchaser can be denied for past felonies, drug use, mental health issues or related concerns, Thrailkill said.

But without a formal denial from federal officials, firearms dealers can legally complete sales to customers after the three-day waiting period expires. Roof received the weapon and magazines, Thrailkill testified, and soon after purchased three more magazines, each capable of holding 13 rounds.

Roof, however, with a felony drug charge on his record from March 2015, should never have been allowed to purchase the weapon, FBI Director James Comey said a month after the attack at Mother Emanuel.

He called that error “a mistake, in a matter of heartbreaking importance to all of us,” one that he said was the result of confusion over geography.

Roof's March arrest on felony drug charges was mistakenly attributed to the Lexington County, S.C., Sheriff's Department, not Columbia police. The Lexington County Sheriff's Department operates the jail where Roof had been detained.

Had the examiner viewed the Columbia police report on Roof’s drug arrest, she would have found that Roof admitted to drug possession, which would have triggered an immediate denial by the FBI NICS review process, according to bureau guidelines.

Because of the confusion over the agencies involved, Roof was allowed to purchase the Glock without incident.

However, in a first for Thrailkill, the Shooter’s Choice manager testified he received a phone call from a NICS investigator on June 29, 2015. That call came more than two months after Roof’s gun purchase. He was told to deny the purchase.

The notification came 12 days after the Mother Emanuel shootings. As is typical of a NICS denial of a gun purchase, Thrailkill said he was not told a reason.

Source: USA Today, December 12, 2016

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