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Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

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Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Motion requesting unanimous vote for death penalty denied by judge

Jury box
A Houston County Judge denied a motion to request prohibition of the death penalty without a unanimous jury vote.

Defense attorneys David Hogg and Robert Aaron Gartlan filed the motion May 3 for their client, Michael Allen Tharp. 

State’s Attorney Mark Jones filed a motion stating the Code of Alabama 1975 13A-5-46 (f) clearly sets forth that a jury recommendation of death must be based on a vote of at least 10 jurors and the verdict must be in writing specify the vote.

Judge Kevin Moulton denied the motion request for a unanimous vote for the death penalty Monday. 

Tharp’s jury trial is set to begin Aug. 27.

Tharp previously pleaded not guilty by mental disease. A mental evaluation was ordered, and in November 2017 Moulton issued an order finding Tharp competent to stand trial.

Houston County Sheriff’s investigators arrested Michael Allen Tharp on Dec. 14, 2012, two days after the slaying and robbery of his stepfather, 68-year-old Joseph Bernard Hendley.

The shooting happened at a mobile home in the 500 block of North Broad Street in Cowarts near an intersection with Jordan Avenue, not far from Tharp’s home. 

According to Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd, Hendley died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Source: Dothan Eagle, Michele Forehand, May 22, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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