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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…

Nevada Man Released from Death Row After Evidence Reveals Innocence of 1988 Murder

Ha’im Al Matin Sharif (AKA Charles Robins)
A Nevada man was released from death row last week after nearly 29 years in prison for a murder evidence now shows he did not commit.

Ha’im Al Matin Sharif (AKA Charles Robins) was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old baby girl. 

A medical examiner testified the child had been physically abused and ultimately murdered. The child’s mother testified that Sharif physically abused the child.

Sharif filed many appeals and in 2011, the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the District of Arizona began a review of his case. 

Attorney Cary Sandman noticed that the child’s injuries were consistent with Barlow’s disease (infantile scurvy). 

Medical experts reviewed the evidence and agreed. Sandman also discovered some of the child’s injuries occurred before Sharif was living with the child’s mother.

Sandman then interviewed the child’s mother, who said her testimony was false and she had never seen Sharif abuse the child. She later recanted her testimony, saying she agreed to lie in court after police threatened to take away her surviving children.

After an evidentiary hearing and a statement from another doctor agreeing the baby died from Barlow’s disease, prosecutors began negotiations for a deal. 

In the end, Sharif agreed to an amended conviction of second-degree murder and a reduction of his sentence to time served. Had he chosen to go back to trial, he could face more years of incarceration and possibly another death sentence.

Sharif told the Arizona Republic that he is looking forward to building a future for himself in Washington state, where he will move in with relatives.

“I have a level of optimism,” he said. “But I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Read the Arizona Republic article here.

Source: Innocence Project, June 15, 2017

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