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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…

Barack Obama commuted death sentence of former Ft. Hood soldier before leaving the Oval Office

President Barack Obama
FORT HOOD, Texas (KWTX) President Barack Obama has commuted the death sentence of a former Ft. Hood soldier who was convicted in 1989 of the shooting deaths of two Killeen taxi drivers.

Then Army Pfc. Class Dwight Jeffrey Loving was sentenced to death in a 1989 court martial for robbing and killing Pvt. Christopher Fay, who was moonlighting as a cab driver to earn extra pay, and Master Sgt. Bobby Sharbino, also a cabbie.

Fay, 20, was assigned to the 13th Corps Support Command and Sharbino was retired.

Testimony at court martial showed Loving asked Fay to drive him to a remote location on post where he shot and robbed him.

Loving then used the same tactic to rob and kill Sharbino.

Both men’s bodies were found on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, 1988 in their cabs.

Unhappy with the amount of money he took in the first two robberies, Loving tried the tactic again when cab driver Howard Harrison, of Kempner, encountered Loving.

Harrison, however, was injured in a struggle with Loving but eventually was able to disarm the bandit and escape without further injury.

FBI Texas Rangers and U.S. Army CID agents arrested Loving the next day after he and his girlfriend spent the previous evening socializing with friends at Killeen night clubs.

In all the robberies netted Loving less than $100.

Loving, 48, a native of Rochester, N.Y., has been on death row at the Ft. Leavenworth since his conviction.

Loving undisputed video confession was presented during the court martial, during which he explained how he enjoyed shooting one of the men so much he re-cocked his handgun and shot the cabbie in the head again.

On June 3, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Loving’s conviction and sentence, then again in 2001.

In 2008 the high court refused a re-hearing on the issue.

The court set a Dec.10, 2008 execution date for Loving, which would have marked the first military execution since 1961.

Source: kwtx.com, Paul J. Gately, January 21, 2017


President Barack Obama commutes sentences of 2 of high-profile military prisoners


Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning
President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of a pair of high-profile military prisoners and pardoned a controversial former Marine Corps general on Tuesday as one of his last acts before leaving the Oval Office.

Among the 209 commutations and 64 pardons announced by the White House were Chelsea Manning, serving 35 years for leaked sensitive Army documents related to the Iraq War; Dwight Loving, a soldier on death row convicted of murder in 1988, and James Cartwright, convicted of lying to the FBI about the release of sensitive intelligence information to reporters five years ago.

Cartwright received a pardon, effectively erasing the crime from his record. Manning, who has served seven years of a 35-year sentence, will be released in May.

Loving had his sentence reassigned to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

All of the 273 decisions were announced without further explanation from the White House. The majority of the decisions were for lower-level drug offenses, an issue that has been among Obama’s top executive actions in recent years.

Manning’s case had been among the most closely watched as Obama’s time in office grew shorter, with advocates pushing for her release. She has attempted suicide several times in the last year, and her imprisonment has raised problematic questions about the military’s responsibilities to deal with her requests for gender reassignment surgery.

Manning, an Army intelligence analyst known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest, made public hundreds of thousands of military documents, including military reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world.

She admitted to the crime and was sentenced without a plea deal. In the intervening years, she and her advocates have pressed Obama for leniency, noting that investigators found no evidence the leaks put lives in danger.

Cartwright was similarly accused of mishandling classified information to reporters about covert cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities. He admitted to the leak and to lying to FBI investigators, and was due to be sentenced later this month. He could have faced up to five years in prison.

Instead, the presidential pardon will remove the threat of jail time for him.

Loving was a soldier stationed at Texas’ Fort Hood Army base in 1988 when he robbed two convenience stores and murdered two taxi drivers during a crime spree.

Only six men are on military’s death row, including Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. The military has not executed any prisoners since 1961.

Source: Military Times, Leo Shane III, January 17, 2017

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