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

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…

Donald Trump's fury as California stops executing prisoners

President Trump exploded with rage yesterday after the governor of California announced he was suspending the death penalty in the state.
President Trump exploded with rage yesterday after the governor of California announced he was suspending the death penalty in the state. The move will prevent executions of any of the 737 inmates held on the largest death row in the United States.

Mr Trump tweeted: "Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers.

"Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!"

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the plan to halt use of the death penalty by saying: "The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual."

Flawed The death penalty was not a deterrent, wasted taxpayer dollars and was flawed because it was "irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error", he added.

Governor Newsom called the death penalty "a failure" that "has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation".

He also said innocent people had been wrongly convicted and sometimes put to death.

Since 1973, five California inmates who were sentenced to die have later been exonerated.

California has not executed anyone since 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor.

And although voters in 2016 narrowly approved a ballot measure to speed up the time between the conviction of killers and their punishment, no condemned inmate faced imminent execution.

More than six in 10 condemned California inmates are from minorities, which Governor Newsom's office cited as proof of racial disparities in who is sentenced to die.

Governor Gavin Newsom
Since California's last execution, its death row population has grown to house one of every four condemned inmates in the United States.

They include Richard Davis, who kidnapped 12-year-old Polly Klaas during a slumber party and strangled her.

Before Governor Newsom's move the 25 current condemned inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals could have faced execution.

The governor's ban is certain to be challenged in court, but aides say his power to grant reprieves is written into the state constitution and that he is not altering any convictions or allowing any condemned inmate a chance at an early release.

However Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy Attorneys for Los Angeles County District, said Governor Newsom "is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium".

His predecessor Jerry Brown also opposed the death penalty, but his administration moved to restart executions after voters acted in 2016 to allow the use of a single lethal injection and speed up appeals.

Source: express.co.uk, Robert Kellaway, March 14, 2019

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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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