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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…

Donald Trump calls for "quick" death penalty for anyone convicted of killing a police officer

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump has called for any person convicted of killing a police officer to be “quickly” executed.

Donald Trump has called for the death penalty for those convicted of killing a police officer.

Speaking at a ceremony for fallen law enforcement officers at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington on Wednesday, the US President said he wanted “quick” capital punishment for anyone found guilty of the crime.

“The ambushes and attacks on our police must end, and they must end right now,” Mr Trump said to applause.

“We believe that criminals who murder police officers should immediately, but with trial, get the death penalty. But quickly. The trial should go fast. It’s got to be fair, but it’s got to go fast.”

The death penalty is a punishment in 30 US states. A total of 25 death-row inmates were executed in America in 2018. Lethal injection is the main method of execution. However, some states, including Virginia, South Carolina and Arkansas, can still use the electric chair to kill a prisoner if they elect that method over lethal injection.

Tennessee is the only state that can legally sentence an inmate to die by electric chair without the prisoner’s consent; two people were executed in this way in 2018.

Mr Trump also criticised big-city prosecutors he asserted didn’t go after criminals who posed a severe threat to public safety. He pledged to the families of fallen officers the country would “never, ever leave your side, never disappoint you” but went beyond memorialising for much of the annual event.

He singled out prosecutors in Philadelphia and Chicago as being part of a “dangerous trend” by deciding not to prosecute “many criminals who pose a severe threat to public safety and community well being”.

He provided scant context for the claim, and prosecutors in those cities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The President also renewed his calls for changes to the nation’s immigration laws, citing the shooting death last December of a Northern California police officer, Cpl Ronil Singh.

Mr Trump said the suspect in Officer Singh’s killing could have been kept out with “border security, with the wall, with whatever the hell it takes”.

Paulo Virgen Mendoza, suspected of being in the country illegally, has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Mr Trump also made an apparent reference to the case of actor Jussie Smollett, saying “those who file false police reports should face full legal consequences”.

The Empire star was charged with felony disorderly conduct and accused of making a false police report after claiming he was attacked by two masked men who shouted slurs at him and put a noose around his neck. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges in March.

The White House did not comment on whether Mr Trump was specifically citing the Smollett case.

The 38th annual memorial service honoured 228 peace officers who died in the line of duty last year.

Source: news.com.au, Associated Press, Staff, May 16, 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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