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…

New Hampshire: Just two votes away from death penalty repeal

New Hampshire
New Hampshire has debated repeal of the death penalty since Gov. Badger called for its abolition in 1834. This year, if House and Senate vote tallies hold during upcoming override votes, repeal will become a reality.

In 2019, bipartisan coalitions in the House and Senate passed a death penalty repeal bill by veto-proof (66%-plus) margins. Gov. Chris Sununu then made good on his promise to once again veto the legislation that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Death penalty repeal has passed the Legislature three times, in 2000, 2018 and 2019, only to fall to the respective veto pens of Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Sununu, so if repealing the death penalty is important to you, now is the time to reach out to your state representatives and senators.

The New Hampshire House has signaled that it may vote as early as this Thursday to override the governor’s veto and if does, we strongly encourage representatives to override the veto by once again voting in favor of repeal.

If the House overrides the governor’s veto it will move on to the Senate, where repeal also passed by what appeared to be a veto-proof margin.

Seacoast Media Group’s editorial board has consistently called for the repeal of the death penalty, arguing the risk of human error is too high, minorities and poor people are disproportionately sentenced to death, it has not been proven a deterrent to violent crime and is far more expensive to taxpayers than sentencing someone to life without parole.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who lost his father and brother-in-law to murder, has repeatedly testified that for him and many other family members, the death penalty hinders rather than helps healing.

“When a family member is killed, quite frankly, you don’t think about what to do with the killer,” Cushing said. “You try to figure out what to do with the empty chair at the kitchen table, what to do with the emptiness in your heart and you go through a whole process that lasts forever of trying to regain control over your life.”

Cushing was one of many House members to provide moving testimony in February.

Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, a longtime death penalty supporter, said the recent death of his wife had given him insight into the grief felt not just by the victim’s family but the killer’s family as well.

“Both families are innocent and they’re both going through the same thing,” Welch said. “I just don’t think it’s a good policy for our government to execute people.”

We also appreciated the testimony of former Attorney General Phil McLaughlin, who said he kept a photo on his desk of a man he successfully prosecuted, who was sentenced to death only to later be exonerated by DNA evidence. The photo served as a reminder that he was “absolutely certain about something, but was dead wrong.”

We also take McLaughlin’s words to heart regarding our own position on death penalty repeal. Our endorsement of repeal should in no way be interpreted as disrespectful to those who believe the death penalty provides justice and serves as a deterrent to violent crime, particularly to law enforcement officers like Michael Briggs, a Manchester police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2006 and whose killer, Michael Addison, is New Hampshire’s lone death row inmate.

In February, the editorial board wrote: “We need to be humble when discussing matters of life and death and to our best to objectively and dispassionately weigh the evidence and then act as our consciences dictate.”

When the House and Senate voted on the death penalty bill in February and March, veto-proof majorities supported repeal. We fervently hope to see those majorities hold when the two bodies vote in response to the governor’s veto.

Source: fosters.com, Editorial, May 19, 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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