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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…

No refills: Last remaining Arkansas death penalty drugs expire soon

After waiting 11 years to die, 35 death row inmates in Arkansas are likely to be around for even longer. The state's lethal injection supply of potassium chloride is set to run out by January 1, 2017.

Arkansas has not had an execution since 2005, due to legal problems centered around their lethal drugs.

In 2015, Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) set execution dates for 8 death row inmates, but they were put on hold until the state Supreme Court decided on the legality of the state's secrecy law.

9 inmates challenged the state's secrecy law, arguing that Arkansas was violating the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution by not revealing the maker, seller and other information about the drugs used in executions. Due to a previous botched execution in Oklahoma, they also argued that one of the drugs, midazolam, failed to properly block pain receptors, which lead to "cruel and unusual" executions.

On June 23, the Arkansas Supreme Court voted 4-3 to uphold the state's secrecy policy, enabling the state to continue concealing information about the drugs used in executions.

However, this was just after the press discovered that the state had obtained lethal drugs from a subsidiary of Pfizer.

RT reported on Pfizer declaring its opposition to using their products in executions, citing their website at the time, which stated: "Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

Since then, many pharmaceutical companies in the US have decided to stop selling lethal drugs to states with capital punishment, and many regulations in Europe have made it hard for states to import any of the necessary drugs for lethal injections.

As pharmaceutical companies continue to make lethal drugs difficult to obtain, states have resorted to alternative sources, but they are not having much luck. The American Pharmacists Association came out with a statement discouraging its members from selling lethal drugs to states for their executions, saying, "Such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of health care."

Without a path to buy lethal drugs, the number of executions has reached its lowest point in a quarter-century, according to a year-end study from the Death Penalty Information Center. The study finds that executions went from a high of 98 in 1998, to only 20 in 2016. This year also saw the fewest death penalty sentences since 1972, when the US Supreme Court case of Furman v. Georgia led to a 4-year-long moratorium on capital punishment sentencing.

Source: rt.com, December 31, 2016


Arkansas says it hasn't found new execution-drug seller


An Arkansas prison system spokesman said Friday that the state doesn't have a replacement for a lethal injection drug that's set to expire today, the latest obstacle in the state's effort to resume executions after more than 11 years.

Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves confirmed that the state's supply of potassium chloride - 1 of 3 drugs used in lethal injections - expires Sunday. Graves declined to say whether officials are working to find a replacement. "Our current supply remains unchanged," Graves said.

Arkansas hasn't put an inmate to death since 2005, and executions are on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a request to weigh in on a ruling upholding the state's death penalty law.

The state Supreme Court in June reversed a lower court's decision against the state's execution secrecy law, which requires the Department of Correction to conceal the maker, seller and other information about the execution drugs. Justices have stayed that ruling while the inmates appeal to the nation's high court.

Death row inmates challenging the law say using the drugs could lead to cruel and unusual punishment and that the state reneged on an earlier pledge to share information about the drugs.

Arkansas has 35 inmates on death row. Gov. Asa Hutchinson set execution dates in 2015 for the 8 inmates involved in the lawsuit before the executions were put on hold by the state Supreme Court during the challenge to the secrecy law.

Source: Associated Press, January 1, 2017

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