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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…

Global drug-makers intervene in lawsuit to stop mass execution in Arkansas

Midazolam
Two major pharmaceutical companies are making a last-minute legal intervention to stop the state of Arkansas from executing eight prisoners between 17th and 27th April. 

The companies, Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward, are throwing their weight behind a suit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol. The suit seeks to prevent the state from moving forward with America’s largest mass execution since the civil rights era. 

The companies write in their brief that “The use of their medicines for lethal injections violates contractual supply-chain controls that the Manufacturers have implemented.” 

Though the companies have binding contracts in place to prevent the sale of their drugs to death rows, Arkansas has admitted in court that on at least one occasion it engineered a breach of such arrangements. 

Court documents which have come to light recently include an admission by Arkansas that it convinced a third-party supplier to sell the state medicines in direct breach of its contracts with the drugs’ manufacturer. 

The companies further warn of grave public health risks associated with the use of these medicines in executions, noting that “The use of their medicines for lethal injections […] creates a public-health risk because it could result in the denial of medicines from patients who need them most.” 

The suit which the two companies are now backing argues that state’s lethal injection cocktail carries a high risk of subjecting the condemned inmates to a torturous botched execution. 

The first drug which Arkansas plans to use in the upcoming executions, midazolam, has repeatedly failed to effectively sedate prisoners, leaving them conscious but paralyzed while the lethal drugs flow through their veins. 

Midazolam has been at the center of botched and prolonged executions in every state that has tried to use the drug, leading several states to abandon it altogether. Last week, a federal appeals court affirmed the halt of Ohio’s use of this drug. 

Commenting, Maya Foa – Director of the human rights organization Reprieve – said: 

“Pharmaceutical manufacturers develop drugs to save and improve lives, and the companies are understandably appalled at the prospect of their medicines being used in America’s largest mass execution since the civil rights era. 

“Arkansas deliberately engineered a breach in these companies’ contracts in order to obtain these drugs, undermining the interests of the healthcare industry and putting public health at risk. 

"Reprieve fully supports Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward’s efforts to prevent this grave misuse of life-saving medicines and protect public health.” 

The court briefs are available on the Reprieve website, here and here.

Source: Reprieve, April 14, 2017

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