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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…

Nebraska: State's haste, stonewalls on executions very troubling

Gathering signatures against the repeal of the Nebraska death penalty.
When it comes to executions, state officials have an itchy trigger finger.

Attorney General Doug Peterson has urged the Nebraska Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of an execution warrant for convicted killer Carey Dean Moore in hopes of scheduling his execution July 10. A major impetus for this haste is that the state's supply of potassium chloride, 1 of the 4 drugs in this lethal cocktail, expires Aug. 31.

Let's slow down.

This breakneck speed, coupled with how much remains unknown about the drugs themselves and the broader execution protocol, should give Nebraskans pause - if not outrage them.

While the Journal Star editorial board has opposed the death penalty on principle, we understand it is the will of the voters of this state. But Nebraskans didn't vote for a hastily developed process that lacks accountability and transparency.

No hard-and-fast evidence has been presented to prove the execution drugs were obtained legally. All we have is the state's word - and, given a mortifying, high-profile failure to illegally import substances from India in 2015, that isn't worth much.

Since the state is carrying out this lethal injection, the burden of proof lies squarely on its shoulders.

Instead, Nebraska officials have sought to distort an open-records lawsuit by the Journal Star and others. They've cited reporters' words that they'd pursue additional information surrounding the purchase of these drugs and argued this as proof positive they'd be able to identify the execution team, in violation 1 of 21 codified exemptions to the state's sunshine laws, when that's not the issue at hand.

(Besides, the defense of "Journalists will do their jobs" fails to hold water as a compelling reason to shield documents from the public.)

At least the state appears to have information to withhold regarding its acquisition of the four lethal injection drugs. Its own words indicate it sped through the creation of its execution protocol without any such paper trail.

In response to an open records request by the Journal Star, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said it crafted the new policy in a single draft without input from the governor, attorney general, Corrections director, outside experts or other state officials.

The agency couldn't provide public records because none exist.

Simply astounding.

Again, all Nebraskans have to rely on is the state's word that these substances were "tested according to state law" without any empirical proof to back that claim - despite the fact Nebraska's 4-drug cocktail has never been used to execute a person in the United States.

Frantic pursuit 


Individually, each of these items should concern Nebraskans. When combined, however, officials' flippancy regarding the power of life and death they hold borders on the unconscionable.

In their race - one against nobody and nothing more than an expiring drug - toward Nebraska's 1st execution since 1997, state officials have failed to do their due diligence. This frantic pursuit must stop until the state can prove to its citizens that it's fully in compliance with the law.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Editorial, June 4, 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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