Today, the US Supreme Court Considers Whether Victim of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Can Suffer the Death Penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court is back at work, and today it will begin deciding whether or not it will hear the case of Holmes v. Louisiana. What's at stake is whether or not Brandy Holmes, who is only 23 years old and suffers mental retardation as a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, should die by execution for a 2003 murder.  The case docket is available online.   

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a totally preventable cause of mental retardation

When mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy, they damage their unborn child. FAS babies are born with an assortment of disorders, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the leading cause of mental retardation in the world.

Brandy Holmes is known to be a victim of her mother's drinking and suffers from FAS. During Brandy's trial, her mother testified about drinking alcohol all throughout her pregnancy. Get this:  this mother testified that she actually named Brandy after her favorite type of alcohol.  Wow.  There's no factual controversy that Brandy's mental retardation is the result of her mother's drinking alcohol as she carried Brandy.

Thirty-three states already find that the mental retarded should not be executed - what will the US Supreme Court do?

Right now, 33 states have decided it is wrong to execute those who suffer from mental retardation.   For details in the arguments against Louisiana executing this woman, read the amicus curaie brief of the Constitution Project.

In Depth Look at the Law: China's Death Penalty -2: Truly Inhumane Killings Are Happening in China Under the Guise of Capital Punishment

This is second part of our new Friday Legal Memo Series - In Depth Look at the Law, where we're focusing on an international horror that is not getting enough attention. In China, people are being executed inside mobile death vans, vehicles that drive from village to village. First, the victim is killed inside the van. Thereafter, his organs are taken from him almost immediately so they can be sold for a profit. All this, while grieving loved ones may well be just outside the vehicle. This is real. Take notice. Spread the word.

How does China officially respond when confronted with these horrors? China doesn't deny the death vans exist. Instead, China claims that the death vans are more humane.

Executions in China are performed by either lethal injection or firing squad. [20] China approved the use of lethal injection in 1997. [21] Although the Chinese government is claiming that lethal injection is a more humane form of execution, there have been reports that the executioners have lowered the dosage amounts to cut costs, which results in a lingering, more agonizing and painful death. [22]

China Prefers Lethal Injection Over the Firing Squad - But Not Because it is a More Humane Manner of Death.

Despite these allegations, the Chinese media and government officials continue to tout that lethal injection is a civilized method for administering the death penalty. [23] The Chinese media often justify the use of lethal injection by citing the use of lethal injection in the United States. [24] The death van designer also claims that switching from gunshots to lethal injections show that China is now promoting human rights. [25]

Critics, however, state that the death vans allow China to carry out executions more quickly and easily. [26] Realistically, the government is not seeking a more enlightened vision of capital punishment but rather a more efficient way to execute a larger number of people. [27] In addition, the vans keep the executions out of the public eye.[28]

Death Vans Are a Profit Machine: They are Used for Organ Transplantation and Lethal Injection is Better for a Fast Harvest

It has been reported that the Chinese government uses mobile execution units to harvest organs from prisoners condemned to death. [29] Human rights activists and death penalty opponents fear that China is using lethal injection more frequently to harvest the organs of executed prisoners to supply China's growing market for organ transplants. [30] Amnesty International is also concerned with China using lethal injection for the purposes of facilitating organ transplants from executed prisoners.[31]

These Silent, Mobile Death Vans are Viewed as Helping the Black Market Human Organ Market to Florish and Grow

The Executive Director of Human Rights in China states that the mobile execution vans help facilitate the black-market trade in organ sales because independent monitoring organizations, like the Red Cross, are denied access to prisons or labor camps. [32] With the secrecy already surrounding executions and organ harvesting in China, the death vans only aid in the business of black-market organ transplants. [33] Critics positively see a link between the silently rolling death vans and the organ trade.[34]

Amnesty International Reports on How Lethal Injection is Preferable in Human Organ Harvesting

According to Amnesty International, the chemicals used for lethal injection, which have neurological and neuromuscular effect, can be flushed through the kidneys without causing permanent damage. [35] The chief concern with damaging organs during execution is depriving the organs of oxygen or harming them physically through trauma. [36] Lethal injection allows the executioner to avoid both of these risks. [37] Although the drugs used for lethal injection in China is not publicly known, even the poisonous mix used in the United States would not damage the vital organs desired for transplants. [38]

With a shot of the anticoagulant, Heparin, beforehand, even a heart could be transplanted if removed quickly. [39] By leaving the body whole via lethal injection, organs can be extracted more quickly and effectively compared to execution by gunshot.[40]

Chinese Doctors Harvesting Human Organs With Grieving Family Members Just Outside the Van

Prior to the death vans, doctors had to hurriedly perform the organ extraction directly at the execution site before they were detected by the common people. [41] During one particular organ extraction inside an ambulance at the execution site, the doctors could hear people outside of the ambulance. [42] Because the doctors feared that those people might have been the prisoner's family, they left the job half finished. [43] The corpse was then hastily thrown in a plastic bag and left on the flatbed of the crematorium truck. [44] As the ambulance drove away, the people outside pelted the vehicle with stones. [45] Therefore, the windowless death vans would provide a much safer venue for the doctors and police officers performing the executions and organ extractions.

[20] Executed, supra note 5, at 44.

[21]Id. at 48.

[22] Charleton, supra note 3, ¶ 5.

[23] Executed, supra note 5, at 48.

[24]Id. at 50.

[25] MacLeod, supra note 12, ¶ 4.

[26] Antoaneta Bezlova, Death Penalty-China: Rapid Death by Roaming, Inter Press Service News Agency (Italy), July 19, 2006, ¶ 2, http://www.ipsnews.net/print.asp?idnews=34023 (last visited July 29, 2008).

[27] Charleton, supra note 3, ¶ 6.

[28] Bezlova, supra note 26, ¶ 2.

[29] Joan E. Hemphill, Comment: China's Practice of Procuring Organs from Executed Prisoners: Human Rights Groups Must Narrowly Taylor Their Criticism and Endorse the Chinese Constitution to End Abuses, 16 Pac. Rim L. & Pol'y 431, 440 (Mar. 2007).

[30] Bezlova, supra note 26, ¶ 16.

[31] People's Republic of China the Olympics Countdown-Failing to Keep Human Rights Promises, Amnesty Int'l (ASA 17/046/2006), Sept. 2006, at 2 [hereinafter Failing], available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/046/2006/en/dom-ASA170462006en.pdf (last visited July 29, 2008).

[32] Bezlova, supra note 26, ¶¶ 20-21.

[33] Id. ¶¶ 20-22.

[34] Id. ¶ 16; MacLeod, supra note 12, ¶ 7.

[35] Carers, supra note 14, at 16.

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Craig S. Smith, In Shift, Chinese Carry Out Executions by Lethal Injection, The N.Y. Times, Dec. 28, 2001, ¶ 11, available at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9900E0D91131F93BA15751C1A9679C8B63 (last visited July 28, 2008).

[39] Id.

[40]MacLeod, supra note 12, ¶ 8.

[41] See Organs, supra note 4, at 59 (statement of Wang Guoqi, former doctor, Chinese PLA Hospital).

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Id.

[45] Id.
Next Friday: Who are the Falun Gong and How are they involved?

A Must Read: Exonerated Florida Death Row Inmate Juan Melendez Gives First Hand Account of His Summary Arrest, 5 Day Trial, and 18 Years on Death Row Before Being Released as an Innocent Man

Today, Emory University posted an article detailing the talk that Juan Melendez gave to Emory's new Criminal Law Society.  (Amnesty International sponsored the event.)  It is simply a must-read for those interested in the current criminal justice system in the State of Florida, especially those dealing with the imposition of the death penalty in our state. 

Included in this article:

1.  Juan Melendez's description of his arrest as he sat with his co-worker, eating lunch, on a fine sunny day;

2.  His recollection of the trial itself -- the attorneys, the jury, the presentation of evidence;

3.  His memories of his defense attorney at trial and thereafter;

4.  What it meant to live on Death Row, including the rats, roaches, and temptation for suicide;  and

5.  The miraculous revelation of the true killer and the disrespectful release of Mr. Melendez thereafter by the authorities.

You must read this.  Juan Melendez is telling us quite a bit here....

Great Book to Read Especially If It's For Free, Online - The Death Penalty: A WorldWide Perspective

Roger Hood's The Death Penalty: a WorldWide Perspective is a great book.  This is true, even if it may be in need of a revised edition, given that this version was published in 2003. 

And, if you sign up for a free trial at Questia.com, you can read his book for free ... this is a great thing.  Here's Amazon.com's description of Hood's work:

This is the completely revised and updated third edition of Roger Hood's classic study on the death penalty. In it he surveys and analyses the status of the death penalty as a punishment worldwide, taking into account the changes that have taken place during the six years since the last edition was published. This new edition is especially valuable at a time when more and more countries are joining the movement to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

It Can Happen Overnight: Japan Suspends the Death Penalty

Remembering back to a couple of months ago, we posted about three executions taking place in Japan, in just one week. 

Well, here's how fast things can change:  Japan has effectively nixed capital punishment today.  How?  By the appointment of Keiko Chiba as the country's new Justice Minister.  A lifelong opponent of the death penalty, it's highly unlikely that Minister Chiba will sign the necessary execution order for any Japanese inmate to be executed in Japan. 

No signed order, no hanging.

Read Gamso on Botched Executions ....

Given that today's news has a federal judge ordering the deposition of Romell (thx Jeff!) Broom to testify regarding the botched execution last week (for details, check our post here) ... a great read on all this mess can be found on Gamso - For the Defense, in an article entitled "Because It's Who We Are or Want to Be: The Botched Execution Edition."

Lethal injection should not be a method of execution in this country (see our series) and Jeff Gamso helps us understand why in very blunt terms. It's worth your time.

In Depth Look at the Law: China's Death Penalty - 1: The Death Vans and Black Market Organ Trade

The death van silently rolls into town collecting and executing condemned inmates. Falun Gong practitioners suddenly disappear or die unexplained deaths.

Both actions derive from the Chinese government's corruption and greed.

Substantial evidence demonstrates that China is grossly profiting from the black-market organ trade by using condemned prisoners and Falun Gong captives to supply much needed organs to high-paying customers.

Seeking to avoid backlash from the international community, especially in this highly publicized time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China has deceptively utilized the more inconspicuous death vans and Falun Gong captives to continue its illegal organ extraction and transplantation activities.

The death penalty has been employed in China since the dawn of recorded history.[1]

Scholars date the first recorded public execution in China as early as 2601 B.C. [2] According to Epoch Times, there are 320 offenses that are currently punishable by death in China.[3]

Many of those executed in China are not even considered criminals by internationally accepted standards. [4] In fact, sixty-nine percent of the capital crimes covered by the Chinese criminal code are not violent in nature.[5]

For example, capital crimes include engaging in tax fraud, producing counterfeit currency, embezzling state property, demanding or accepting bribes, smuggling contraband across China's borders, pimping, and killing panda bears. [6] In addition, some capital crimes are vague, which include funding or committing terrorist crimes, belonging to a terrorist organization, and producing, trading, and storing toxic chemicals without authorization.[7]

Defendants sentenced to death are often executed within minutes or hours after the failure of their appeal.[8]

Instead of providing any thought to the comfort of prisoners condemned to death, the emphasis is placed on exhibiting the Chinese government's swift and firm hand of justice. [9] One research foundation estimated that 7,500-8,000 Chinese people were executed in 2006 alone. [10]

Death vans

In March 2003, the Chinese official press reported that the Yunnan Province purchased eighteen mobile execution units or "death vans." [11] The death vans shuttle from town to town doling out capital punishment.[12]

These mobile execution units were buses that were bought and converted for 500,000 Yuan each.[13] The vans are windowless, converted twenty-four seat buses that contain a metal bed where the prisoner is strapped down in preparation for execution. [14] The van is also equipped with a video monitor next to the driver's seat. [15] Once the procedure begins, the doctor inserts the needle, and the police officer presses a button to release the lethal cocktail into the prisoner's veins.[16]

The Supreme People's Court has urged all the courts throughout China to purchase these death vans to facilitate efficient executions.[17]

The death vans are more cost-effective, especially for small rural areas, to carry out local executions. [18] Otherwise, these small regions would need to build execution facilities or send their inmates to Beijing to be executed.[19]

Next week: More on the Death Vans and their use for organ transplantation; the methods of execution in China, and more....

[1]. Kelly M. Brown, Comment: Execution for Profit? A Constitutional Analysis of China's Practice of Harvesting Executed Prisoner' Organs, 6 Seton Hall Const. L.J. 1029, 1062 (Summer 1996).

[2]. Id.

[3]. Dennis Charleton, Mobile Death Vans - Good for Human Rights?, The Epoch Times, July 2, 2006, ¶ 4, available at http://en.epochtimes.com/news/6-7-2/43479.html (last visited Jul. 28, 2008).

[4]. Organs for Sale: China's Growing Trade and Ultimate Violation of Prisoners' Rights: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Int'l. Ops. and Human Rights of the Comm. on Int'l. Relations, 107th Cong. 8 (2001) [hereinafter Organs] (statement of Cal. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Member, Comm. on Int'l. Relations).

[5]. People's Republic of China: Executed "According to Law"?-the Death Penalty in China, Amnesty Int'l (ASA 17/003/2004) Mar. 22, 2004, at 9 [hereinafter Executed], available at http://www.amnesty.ca/amnestynews/upload/asa1700304.pdf (last visited Jul. 28, 2008).

[6]. Id.

[7]. Id. at 10.

[8]. Id. at 44.

[9]. Id. at 45

[10]. People's Republic of China the Olympics Countdown: Repression of Activists Overshadows Death Penalty and Media Reforms, Amnesty Int'l (ASA 17/015/2007), Apr. 2007, at 8 [hereinafter Repression], available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/015/2007/en/dom-ASA170152007en.pdf (last visited July 28, 2008).

[11]. Executed, supra note 5, at 2.

[12]. Calum MacLeod, China Makes Ultimate Punishment Mobile, USA Today, June 15, 2006, ¶ 3, available at http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-06-14-death-van_x.htm (last visited July 28, 2008).

[13]. Executed, supra note 5, at 2. 500, 000 Yuan equals $60,000 USD.

[14]. Stop Carers Killing, Amnesty Int'l (ACT 50/009/2007), Sept. 27, 2007, at 3 [hereinafter Carers], available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT50/009/2007/en/dom-ACT500092007en.pdf (last visited July 28, 2008).

[15]. Id.

[16]. Id.

[17]. Id.

[18]. MacLeod, supra note 12, ¶ 14.

[19]. Id. ¶¶ 14, 20.

Author of Series on China's Death Penalty: Sin-Ting Mary Liu

The next entry in our Friday series -- Friday's Legal Memo, an In-depth Look at the Law -- educates us on how capital punishment is administered in China. 

Its author is our invaluable legal intern, Sin-Ting Mary Liu, and her qualifications for providing us with this trusted work are:

EDUCATION & TRAINING

JURIS DOCTOR CANDIDATE, Nova Southeastern University, Expected Graduation 2010

GPA - 3.72

Class Rank - 5 (Top 2%)

Honors
• Dean's List
• Fall 2007 Highest Grade Award -Legal research and writing
• Spring 2008 Highest Grade Award -Legal research and writing
• ILSA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW, Staff Member - editing, source pulling, and Bluebooking multiple journal articles
• Nova Southeastern University - Shepard Broad Law Center Merit Scholarship Award

Activities
• Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) - Member
• American Bar Association (ABA) - Student Member
• Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) - Member

Special Areas of Legal Interest
• Criminal Law
• Employment Law
• Biotechnology
• Family Law

BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN ADVERTISING, University of Florida, 1994
• Minor in East Asian Languages and Literature

DALE CARNEGIE TRAINING COURSE, 1997 - 1998

Continue Reading...

Ohio Set for Second Execution Attempt of Romell Broom Unless His Lawyers Work Fast

Romell Broom was sentenced to die for the rape and murder of Tryna Middleton by the State of Ohio and last Tuesday, Mr. Broom was strapped to a gurney and his execution by lethal injection began. 

The 2+ Hour Failed Execution

Except they couldn't find a vein in which to insert the needle.  They tried his arms.  They tried his legs.  Broom lay there, tied to the table by long leather straps covering the length of his body.  Imagine this being done to you.

Broom lay there for OVER TWO HOURS while lab techs tried to kill him.  They failed.  Broom went back to his Death Row cell, and his execution was "rescheduled."  The Governor of the State of Ohio was contacted about the problem and he ordered a one week "postponement."

Ohio Has Scheduled a Second Execution

Well, now Broom's execution -- again, by lethal injection -- has been put back on the calendar, and a national outcry is joining with the arguments of his lawyers that this amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.   According to his counsel, this event has traumatized inmate Broom.  That's probably an understatement. 

Legal Arguments Based Upon Cruel and Unusual Punishment are Being Advanced in the Face of Willie Francis Precedent

Broom's attorneys -- as well as organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union -- are advancing the argument that Governor Strickland should grant clemency to Broom and commute his sentence to one of life imprisonment because of this botched execution.  Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a second execution is not, in and of itself, cruel and unusual.  Those in the know with their legal death penalty history will remember the Louisiana case of 16 year old Willie Francis, where an electric chair execution failed and the issue of whether or not a second try at killing Francis would be cruel and unusual.  In Francis v. Resweber, the High Court held second executions were constitutional.

Florida's Contribution -- the Lesson of Angel Diaz

Here in Florida, we remember the case a couple of years back where the execution of Angel Diaz was excruciating, as the executioners pushed the needs through his veins and into muscle tissue -- which meant Mr. Diaz took over half an hour to die, laying there in front of everyone on that gurney.  After that botched business, the State of Florida stopped lethal injection executions for a period of time.  Florida resumed executing inmates in 2008, under purportedly new and better injection procedures. 

Maybe Ohio needs to look at its own procedures instead of cavalierly putting Broom's name back on its death calendar.  Or maybe they should just stop executing people, period....

Inside the Death Chamber - Tours by Death Row Wardens

North Carolina

The video below is a ten minute documentary by Scott Langley, where a North Carolina Warden gives a detailed tour of Death Row, and tells what happens during an execution -- from last phone calls, to the execution itself and its aftermath.




Texas

The Associated Press has placed an interview online -- they're calling it an "interactive" -- where a Texas Warden who oversaw nine executions by lethal injection gives a tour of the Death House and an explanation, step by step, of his job during an execution. 

http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_national/texas_execution/index.html?SITE=TXSAE

Due to AP's copyright/fair use protections, the actual video cannot be placed here on the site.  Instead, only the link to their site can be shown.  Please take the time to click on the above link, and watch this short video. It is worth your time. 

Warning:  these tours are chilling, and may leave you in a somber mood for the rest of the day.

Cameron Todd Willingham Is Not the First Innocent Man Sentenced to Die -- Here's a List

Cameron Todd Willingham's story is sad and tragic and true, and it's a great thing that there is more and more media coverage of how this innocent man was executed by the State of Texas.   

Hopefully, the travesty of justice in the Cameron Todd Willingham case will remind us all that there are real people setting on Death Row in this country today who are innocent of the crimes of which they are convicted ... and that in some instances, there are correlated evildoers enjoying their freedom while they should be the ones being punished for their acts.

The Innocence Project List

The Innocence Project has started an online list of individuals who have been sitting on Death Row in this country -- convicted and innocent.  Currently, the site has not added Mr. Willingham's name to the list -- and there may be more names out there that aren't shown on the IP's site (I'd appreciate being notified of others, by the way), but these names are there, and it's worth a visit to the Innocence Project page to read their stories:

Kirk Bloodsworth

Rolando Cruz 

Alejandro Hernandez

Verneal Jimerson 

Dennis Williams

Robert Miller

Ron Williamson

Ronald Jones

Earl Washington

Frank Lee Smith

Charles Irvin Fain

Ray Krone

Nicholas Yarris

Ryan Matthews

Curtis McCarty

Kennedy Brewer

Michael Blair

Cameron Todd Willingham and John Grisham's The Innocent Man

John Grisham chose a story about the death penalty for his first non-fiction novel, and it's well worth the read.  The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, has been out for awhile -- so long in fact, that you can buy a used copy on Amazon for a buck ninety-nine ($1.99).   It's particularly compelling in light of the case of Cameron Todd Willingham -- an innocent man executed by the State of Texas with scientific evidence recently proving his innocence.

What's Grisham's book about?

It's a true story, which began over 25 years ago when a young cocktail waitress was raped and murdered, and the crime remained unsolved for 5 years.  All this time, the authorities believed that two specific men were responsible, and after these five years had passed, they ended up arresting the two guys, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, for murder. 

They had no physical evidence.  The case went to a jury based solely on junk science and the testimony of a convict or two.  Ron Williamson was sent to death row; his pal got life in prison.

Eerie to read, as you ponder the Willingham case....

Will the Jurors Decide that Michael King Should Die? Will They Decide Before 5 Today?

As these words are being typed, the jurors over in Sarasota, Florida, are deciding whether or not Michael King should die.

Who is Michael King? The Mitigating Circumstances

Michael King has just been convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Denise Lee.  He is 38 years old.  The prosecution does not contest that King has been a good father to his 13-year-old son and he has a low IQ.   Or that King was devoted to his girlfriend of many years, that he has been a stellar prisoner,  has no prior record of crime, and doesn't drink or do drugs.   Plus, King suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child (it happened during a sledding accident) which caused permanent damage.

Victim of Traumatic Brain Injury

Just yesterday, the hearing on whether or not Michael King is legally competent, due to that brain injury, concluded after the testimony of mental health experts and family witnesses of his behavior over the years, as well as the accident itself.  There was evidence that King complained for years of always having a "buzzing" in his head and that he periodically suffered from hallucinations.  One brother described how Michael would see ghosts, and that he would shoot at them.   The judge ruled that King was competent for trial, and the penalty phase of the case resumed. 

The Aggravating Factors

These are the mitigating circumstances that his defense attorney has argued to the jury, asking them to keep emotion out of the jury room as they decide between life and death.   Michael King will live the rest of his life behind bars, and this is justice, she argued.

The State's attorney brought forth aggravating factors:  (1) King committed the murder after he already kidnapped and raped Ms. Lee; (2) the killing itself was heinous, atrotious, or cruel; (3) he killed his victim in an attempt to escape arrest for the kidnapping and rape;  and (4) the killing was cold, premeditated, and calculated.

The jury will return with a recommendation for the judge; it need not be based upon an unanimous vote.  Then the judge, Sarasota Circuit Court Judge Deno Economou, will decide whether or not Michael King will be sentenced to die. 

This is the same jury that took only two hours to decide Michael King was guilty of the murder of Denise Lee.  

The Underlying Crime - The Murder of Denise Lee

Denise Lee and Michael King were strangers.  Lee, the daughter of a detective for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department and the mother of two small children, was taken from her home one afternoon and driven to King's residence where she was raped, shot, and later buried in a ditch.   During the drive between her home and his, Lee called 911 using King's cellphone and her six minute call was played to the jury.  Another 911 call, by a witness who followed the Camaro but lost it before it arrived at King's home, was also played.  A third 911 call was also placed by a family member of Michael King's, who saw the victim in the Camaro when King stopped by his home.   The failure of these 911 calls has led to legislation and continued efforts for legal change by the victim's family.

It is Friday afternoon.  It only took this jury two hours to decide on the guilt of Michael King.  Many would argue that there will be a swift recommendation vote, and the life of Michael King will be placed in the hands of Judge Economou before sunset.   We'll know soon enough.

Media Coverage Increasing On the Story of Cameron Todd Willingham - Another Innocent Man Executed

Apparently, Cy Vance's great article in HuffPo on the tragic story of Cameron Todd Willingham (see last week's post) was just the start.  More and more stories are appearing across the country, covering the brutal fact that a man was killed by the State of Texas for the arson murder of his children and only after his death did scientific evidence substantiate what Willingham had been claiming the whole time:  it wasn't arson.  He didn't commit murder.  Specifically, he did not commit filicide.

Several of these writings deserve your time, particularly:

The op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times, written by Bob Herbert, where he writes:

"... The report is devastating, the kind of disclosure that should send a tremor through one's conscience. There was absolutely no scientific basis for determining that the fire was arson, said [arson expert Craig] Beyler. No basis at all...."

The response by editor Michael Landauer in the Dallas Morning News to the statements made by the prosecutor in the Willingham case (who is now a sitting judge in Texas):

"Well, he was a foul-mouthed wife beater.  That seems to be the response of the chief prosecutor of the Willingham case...."

And, the long, in-depth investigative piece by in the New Yorker, which goes into great detail and obviously took great effort both in investigation, research, and writing, published this month and written by David Grann, who provides Cameron Todd Williingham's last words:

"...'The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne.' "

This coverage is important and the more discussion is had in this country regarding the tragedy of Cameron Todd Willingham's case, the better.  One can only wonder why it took from 2004, when Willingham was executed until now -- five years later -- for this travesty to come into the national spotlight.

Let's all hope that somehow, this brings some peace to the Willingham family.  The arson was a terrible accident.  Those babies did not die at the hand of their father, and this confirmation should bring some relief to these folk. 

The injustice of the execution?  Our prayers and our compassion go out to them as they deal with this reality. 

 
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