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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…

Florida set to conduct its first execution in a year and a half

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
Ahead of a planned resumption of executions in Florida on 24 August, 18 months after the last one, Amnesty International is issuing a paper on recent developments relating to the death penalty in the US state.

Death in Florida” outlines the state’s response to the January 2016 US Supreme Court decision that Florida’s capital sentencing law was unconstitutional, and the governor’s reaction to a prosecutor’s subsequent decision to reject the death penalty.

When State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced that she would not seek the death penalty due to its demonstrable flaws, Governor Scott immediately responded by ordering her replacement with a different prosecutor more willing to engage in this lethal pursuit. 

So far the Governor has transferred 26 cases to his preferred prosecutor.

Racial discrimination was one of the death penalty’s flaws – along with its costs, risks and failure as a deterrent – cited by State Attorney Ayala, the first African American to be elected to that position in Florida.

“Here are two officials taking very different approaches to the overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is a failed policy,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“One says drop it, it is a waste of resources, prone to discrimination, arbitrariness and error. The other says crank up the machinery of death.

“One is acting consistently with international human rights principles. The other is not.”

Background Information


The prisoner set to be executed on 24 August at 6pm is Mark Asay, who was sent to death row in 1988 for two murders committed in 1987. 

The last execution in Florida was of Oscar Bolin on 7 January 2016, five days before the US Supreme Court issued its Hurst v. Florida ruling that the state’s capital sentencing statute was unconstitutional.

Source: Amnesty International, August 21, 2017


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