Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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…

Idaho death row inmate found dead in his prison cell

Zane Jack Fields
Zane Jack Fields
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho Maximum Security Institution inmate who has spent more than 25 years on death row was found dead in his prison cell on Monday morning, of apparent natural causes.

Zane Jack Fields, 58, was found unresponsive in his cell about 7 a.m., the Idaho Department of Corrections said. Prison staff initiated first aid, but Fields was pronounced dead an hour later, the agency said.

Fields was one of nine people awaiting execution in Idaho.

As in all cases of unattended deaths at the prison, the Ada County Sheriff's Office processed Fields' cell as a crime scene. The Ada County Coroner's Office will determine the cause of death.

Fields was sentenced to death in 1991 in Ada County for the 1988 stabbing of Mary Catherine Vanderford, 69, while robbing her gift shop in Boise. He got away with $50.

Fields was charged more than a year later after telling a fellow jail inmate that he killed Vanderford. Fields was in jail at the time on an aggravated assault conviction.

Fourth District Judge Gerald Schroeder sentenced him to death in 1991, saying Fields showed "utter disregard for human life."

The number of death row inmates in Idaho has been dwindling. Of the more than 40 people sentenced of death since capital punishment was reinstated in the 1970s, only three have been executed, the last in 2012. Eight people remain on death row.

Many others have had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment. Two were released after their convictions were overturned. Two previously died in prison.

Death row inmates are kept in solitary confinement. They remain inside their 12-foot by seven-foot cells for 23 hours a day, and they can spend one hour outside in a similarly sized cage. They are escorted out of their cells for showers, medical appointments and meetings with attorneys.

Source: ISJ, March 27, 2017

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