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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…

Outcry after Arkansas judge who stayed executions joins anti-death penalty rally

Pulaski County circuit judge Wendell Griffen
Pulaski County circuit judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death
penalty demonstration outside the state governor’s mansion, Arkansas.
Republican lawmakers questioned Judge Wendell Griffen’s impartiality after he lay bound on a cot following his ruling to halt executions

The judge who on Friday barred Arkansas from executing six prisoners in rapid succession followed his ruling by attending an anti-death penalty rally, where he lay down on a cot and bound himself as though he were a condemned man on a gurney.

Judge Wendell Griffen’s participation in the protest outside the Arkansas governor’s mansion sparked outrage among death penalty supporters, including Republican lawmakers who described it as judicial misconduct and potential grounds for Griffen’s removal from the bench.

Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge on Saturday asked the state’s highest court to vacate Griffen’s ruling and asked for a new judge to be assigned the case.

Griffen, a Pulaski County circuit judge, ruled against the state because of a dispute over how the state obtained one of its execution drugs. In an interview on Saturday, he said he was morally opposed to the death penalty and that his personal beliefs alone should not disqualify him from taking up certain cases. 

“We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they must place their personal feelings aside,” he said. 

On Friday, Griffen granted a restraining order preventing Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs it uses in executions, because the supplier said the state misleadingly obtained the drug.

The ruling came a day before a federal judge halted the executions on different grounds. The back-to-back decisions upend what had been a plan to execute eight men in 11 days, starting on Monday, because the state’s supply of one of the other execution drugs expires at the end of the month. 

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Source: The Guardian, April 15, 2017

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