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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…

North Carolina: Black inmate moved off death row after sentencing by all-white jury

Phillip Antwan Davis
Phillip Antwan Davis
A judge has moved a North Carolina inmate off death row, amidst allegations that prosecutors illegally discriminated on the basis of race during jury selection.

After nearly 20 years on death row, 39-year-old Phillip Antwan Davis was re-sentenced on Friday to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Davis was originally sentenced to death in the 1996 murders of his aunt and her daughter in Asheville.

An all-white jury sentenced Davis, who is black, to death after he pleaded guilty to the murders.

Prosecutors purposefully excluded the only qualified black juror from the 1997 jury that decided Davis’ sentence, according to the N.C. Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Prosecutors in the case had attended a training session where they were taught to give excuses for striking jurors. In a news release issued Monday, the death penalty litigation center said that such excuses were used “to mask their intention of ridding the jury of African Americans.”

It is illegal to strike jurors based on race.

When they excluded the black juror, prosecutors noted that she was wearing a cross earring and objected to her Tweetie Bird t-shirt, which they said indicated she didn’t take the case seriously, the center said.

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams, who was elected to that office in 2014, agreed that Davis should be re-sentenced to life without parole.

Williams cited several reasons, including Davis’ age at the time of the crime, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Davis was 18 when he committed the murders. Had he been under 18, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.

Williams also noted that Davis accepted responsibility for the murders and pleaded guilty to the crimes, the Citizen-Times story said.

In court on Friday, Davis expressed his continuing regret for the killings:

“To family members and anyone who knew Joyce and Caroline, they were two very special people who were loved by a lot of people including myself,” Davis said. “I regret everything that happened and it’s something I’ll regret for the rest of my life.”

Source: Charlotte Observer, Ames Alexander, February 13, 2017

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