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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…

Virginia: Federal judge declines to delay execution over drug controversy

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday declined to delay the execution of convicted killer Ricky Gray, which is scheduled to take place January 18. 

Gray's attorneys argued in December that the drugs to be used during the execution were untested and potentially torturous. 

Judge Henry Hudson concluded that "any discomfort experienced by Gray in the execution process is unlikely to cause serious pain or suffering." He also concluded that the possibility of pain was outweighed by the harm done if the execution was delayed. 

Gray's attorney, Lisa Fried, stated that "it is unconstitutional ... to carry out an execution that risk chemically torturing a prisoner to death." No other state has used the mixture of drugs to be used at Gray's execution. 

His attorneys plan to appeal.

Capital punishment remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. Last Wednesday the Florida Supreme Court issued a 1-paragraph order informing judges and prosecutors that the state's death penalty procedure is unconstitutional, marking the 2nd such order in 3 months. 

In October the US Supreme Court vacated the death sentence of an Oklahoma man convicted of killing his girlfriend and her 2 children in a case where the trial judge permitted family members to recommend the sentence to the jury. 

In May a Miami judge ruled that Florida's revamped death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous agreement among jurors to approve executions. 

In April Virginia's General Assembly voted to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs. 

In 2002 the Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia that the Eighth Amendment's proscription on cruel and unusual punishment makes the execution of individuals with intellectual disability unconstitutional, which was considered in the Moore v. Texas case. 

In November, Oklahoma became the 1st state to have the death penalty explicitly added to their state constitution as legal. According to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), only 5 out of 31 states that have the death penalty held executions in 2016.

Source: jurist.org, January 12, 2017

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