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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…

Death penalty sought for SC man accused of ‘brutally’ molesting, killing toddler

William Ryan Looper
LAURENS COUNTY, SC - Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the South Carolina man accused of molesting his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son and beating the toddler to death.

Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo and Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds announced Tuesday that the state will seek a death sentence for William Ryan Looper, who is charged with murder in the death of 2-year-old Brantley Justin Smith, according to a release from the solicitor’s office.

Brantley was found dead in a Clinton home in June, McClatchy reported previously. 

The boy had been “brutally beaten” and was “brutally sexually assaulted before his death,” the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

The death penalty notice was filed Monday, according to Laurens County online court records. 

Looper faces charges of murder, criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years of age and two counts of unlawful neglect of a child.

South Carolina law provides several aggravating circumstances under which prosecutors can seek a death sentence, including killing a person during the commission of criminal sexual conduct or killing a child age 11 or younger. 

The release from the solicitor’s office said prosecutors will provide at a later date the “multiple aggravating circumstances” upon which the state will seek the death sentence.

Looper’s girlfriend and Brantley’s mother, Jessica Blake Smith, also faces charges of unlawful neglect of a child and homicide by child abuse in Brantley’s death.

Source: thestate.com, Teddy Kulmala, September 18, 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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