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Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

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Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Washington Governor Jay Inslee grants reprieve to child killer on death row

Washington Governor Jay Inslee
Washington Governor Jay Inslee
BELLINGHAM - Gov. Jay Inslee granted a reprieve Thursday to a Bellingham man sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.

A Whatcom County jury sentenced Clark Richard Elmore to death in 1996, for the killing of his girlfriend’s teenage daughter. Elmore raped Kristy Lynn Ohnstad in a van, choked her until she passed out, drove a metal skewer through her skull, beat her with a sledgehammer, and dumped her body in the woods. She was 14.

Over the past two decades Elmore has appealed to successively higher courts. In October the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case. An execution date was set for Jan. 19.

Inslee formally granted a reprieve Thursday. Two years ago earlier he had announced a moratorium on death sentences in Washington state.

“Governor Inslee has been very consistent that his moratorium on the death penalty cases in Washington isn’t about individual cases,” reads a statement released Thursday by the governor’s office. “As he stated when he announced the moratorium in 2014 the action is based on the governor’s belief that the use of capital punishment across the state is inconsistent and unequally applied — sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.”

Prosecutor Dave McEachran met with Inslee last week to ask him to consider making an exception and allow the execution to proceed.

Kristy’s family spoke with Inslee, too, and “expressed a preference to see Elmore serve life in prison,” according to the governor’s office.

Elmore will remain at the state prison in Walla Walla, where he’s effectively serving a life sentence.

Gov. Jay’s Inslee office released the following statement:
Under state law, Article III, Section 9 of the Washington Constitution and RCW 10.01.120, the governor is granted the authority to issue reprieves — or stays of execution— and, consistent with his intent to issue a moratorium on death penalty executions, Governor Inslee has issued a reprieve in Clark Elmore’s case. This action does not commute Mr. Elmore’s sentence nor issue a pardon and he will remain in the State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for the rest of his life. In recent weeks the governor spoke with the Whatcom County prosecutor, who asked the governor to reconsider his position, as well as the victim’s family who expressed a preference to see Elmore serve life in prison.
Governor Inslee has been very consistent that his moratorium on the death penalty cases in Washington isn’t about individual cases. As he stated when he announced the moratorium in 2014 the action is based on the governor’s belief that the use of capital punishment across the state is inconsistent and unequally applied – sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.
The governor urges the state legislature to end the death penalty once and for all.

Sources: The News Tribune, Kiro7, December 29, 2016

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