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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…

Already Facing Death, Dylann Roof Cuts Deal for Added Life Term

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Eleven weeks after a federal jury condemned Dylann S. Roof to death for killing nine worshipers at a black church in Charleston, S.C., state prosecutors announced on Friday that they would end a separate case by allowing him to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a life sentence.

After the Bible study massacre in June 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the state and federal governments each announced they would seek to execute the avowed white supremacist.

A state grand jury indicted him for murder and attempted murder while a federal grand jury charged him with 33 counts, including hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of exercise of religion and use of a firearm to commit murder.

Mr. Roof said in a remorseless confession and in various writings that he planned the attack in hopes of fomenting a race war.

But federal prosecutors beat their state counterparts to court, leaving Scarlett A. Wilson, the chief prosecutor for Charleston County, to decide whether to put survivors and victims’ families through a second traumatic trial, at taxpayer expense, in pursuit of a duplicate sentence.

As had been expected since the end of the federal trial in January, Ms. Wilson concluded that the 18 death sentences from that case would suffice.

Last year, the Justice Department rejected Mr. Roof’s offer to plead guilty to the federal charges in exchange for a life sentence. Mr. Roof, who represented himself for part of his case and presented no evidence in his defense during his federal trial, has filed a motion in federal court seeking a new trial.

Ms. Wilson announced her decision in a letter and telephone calls to family members of the victims. Mr. Roof’s state public defender, D. Ashley Pennington, confirmed the details.

Ms. Wilson said in an interview that Mr. Roof, 22, would plead guilty at a hearing on April 10 to nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder (two adults and a child survived). He then would be transferred from the Charleston County jail to a federal prison.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The New York Times, Kevin Sack, March 31, 2017

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