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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…

Scott Nelson: No Death Penalty for Convicted Killer

Scott NelsonORLANDO, Fla. — After two days of deliberations, a 12-member jury couldn't unanimously agree on a death sentence for convicted killer Scott Nelson, who then got life in prison for killing a Winter Park personal assistant in 2017.

Judge Keith F. White read the jury's decision to the courtroom at the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando late Thursday afternoon. Soon after White read the decision, he officially sentenced Nelson to life in prison.

The jury's decision to recommend death for Nelson had to be unanimous, which means at least one juror declined to recommend the sentence.

"We respect the decision of the jury, and we are relieved to know this person will no longer be a threat to our community," the State Attorney's Office said in a statement. 

The jurors spent Wednesday night sequestered in a hotel with no TV, wifi or private phone calls. About an hour into their deliberations Thursday morning, they had a request for the judge.

The jury wanted to revisit testimony by two psychologists who testified during the penalty phase of Nelson's trial: one for the state and one for Nelson’s defense.

Jurors specifically wanted to hear testimony that dealt with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, two mental disorders that Nelson's defense attorneys argued their client has struggled with. The attorneys argued that those disorders contributed to his killing of Jennifer Fulford in 2017.

The state’s psychologist testified that Nelson doesn't have mental disorders but a personality disorder that includes narcissism, and that he still has the ability to choose between right and wrong.

Jurors listened for about an hour as a court reporter read back the testimony, then went back into deliberations.

The jurors last month found Nelson guilty of killing Fulford. Taking the stand in his own defense, Nelson admitted to killing her but said his parole officer made him do it.

Prosecutors announced in court that Thursday would have been Fulford's birthday.

The judge told Nelson he has 30 days to appeal his case in writing.

Source: mynews13.com,  Jeff Allen, Rebecca Turco, Spectrum News Staff and Cheryn Stone, July 11, 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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