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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…

Execution halted for man convicted in Texas real estate agent's murder

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday halted the execution of a man convicted in the murder of a McKinney real estate agent in 2007.

Another Texas execution has been stopped by the state’s highest criminal appellate court, giving relief to the man convicted in 2007 in the robbery and murder of a McKinney real estate agent.

Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 36, was scheduled to die on July 19 after more than nine years on death row. He was convicted in the 2006 stabbing death of Sarah Walker in the model home of a subdivision where she worked, according to court documents. On Wednesday morning, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of execution and sent his case back to the Collin County trial court to review claims of discredited forensic sciences.

On July 8, 2006, a couple coming to view the model home found Walker dead, stabbed 33 times with a bite mark on her neck, according to a federal court filing. Her watch and ring were missing from her body. Bloody fingerprints found at the scene and DNA under Walker’s fingernails linked the crime to Chanthakoummane, who was arrested nearly two months later.

Chanthakoummane told police he went to a model home after his car broke down, and that he had cuts on his hands that could explain his blood at the scene, according to the filing. At trial, the state presented forensic experts who claimed the bite mark on Walker’s neck and DNA at the scene pointed to Chanthakoummane.

In 2016, a White House report concluded forensic bite-mark evidence was not scientifically valid.

This is the third time the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted a scheduled execution this year (two of those scheduled executions were for the same man, Tilon Carter). Another execution was halted by a federal court.

There have been four executions in the state this year.

Source: Texas Tribune, Jolie Mccullough, June 7, 2017

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