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Old Aug 27, 2009, 02:39 AM   #1
.Andy
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The death of the death penalty.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/c...,5812073.story

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In a withering critique, a nationally known fire scientist has told a state commission on forensics that Texas fire investigators had no basis to rule a deadly house fire was an arson -- a finding that led to the murder conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

The finding comes in the first state-sanctioned review of an execution in Texas, home to the country's busiest death chamber. If the commission reaches the same conclusion, it could lead to the first-ever declaration by an official state body that an inmate was wrongly executed.

Indeed, the report concludes there was no evidence to determine that the December 1991 fire was even set, and it leaves open the possibility the blaze that killed three children was an accident and there was no crime at all -- the same findings found in a Chicago Tribune investigation of the case published in December 2004.

Willingham, the father of those children, was executed in February 2004. He protested his innocence to the end.

The Tribune obtained a copy of the review by Craig Beyler, of Hughes Associates Inc., which was conducted for the Texas Forensic Science Commission, created to investigate allegations of forensic error and misconduct. The re-examination of the Willingham case comes as many forensic disciplines face scrutiny for playing a role in wrongful convictions that have been exposed by DNA and other scientific advances.

Among Beyler's key findings: that investigators failed to examine all of the electrical outlets and appliances in the Willinghams' house in the small Texas town of Corsicana, did not consider other potential causes for the fire, came to conclusions that contradicted witnesses at the scene, and wrongly concluded Willingham's injuries could not have been caused as he said they were.

The state fire marshal on the case, Beyler concluded in his report, had "limited understanding" of fire science. The fire marshal "seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires and how fire injuries are created," he wrote.

The marshal's findings, he added, "are nothing more than a collection of personal beliefs that have nothing to do with science-based fire investigation."

Over the past five years, the Willingham case has been reviewed by nine of the nation's top fire scientists -- first for the Tribune, then for the Innocence Project, and now for the commission. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson.

The only other evidence of significance against Willingham was another inmate who testified that Willingham had confessed to him. Jailhouse snitches are viewed with skepticism in the justice system, so much so that some jurisdictions have restrictions against their use.

Samuel Bassett, an attorney who is the chairman of the commission, said the panel will seek a response from the state fire marshal and then write its own report.

Contacted Monday, one of Willingham's cousins said she was pleased with the report but was skeptical that state officials would acknowledge Willingham's innocence.

"They are definitely going to have to respond to it," said Pat Cox. "But it's difficult for me to believe that the State of Texas or the governor will take responsibility and admit they did in fact wrongfully execute Todd. They'll dance around it."
One innocent death is one too many.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 06:09 AM   #2
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"In the UK, reviews prompted by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have resulted in one pardon and three exonerations with compensation paid for people executed between 1950 and 1953, when the execution rate in England and Wales averaged 17 per year."


That fact alone renders the death penalty UTTERLY unacceptable in ANY country with even a tiny semblance of being civilised.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 01:29 PM   #3
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I support the death penalty. I believe there are crimes so bad, that the perpetrator should be killed.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 01:32 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ucfgrad93 View Post
I support the death penalty. I believe there are crimes so bad, that the perpetrator should be killed.
What if they didnt do it?
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 03:03 PM   #5
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What if they didnt do it?
The appeals process is long enough to prevent that from happening.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 03:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by ucfgrad93 View Post
The appeals process is long enough to prevent that from happening.
Even an appeals process of unlimited length is insufficient to ensure innocent individuals aren't executed.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 03:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ucfgrad93 View Post
The appeals process is long enough to prevent that from happening.
I'm guessing you didn't read the article in the original post.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 03:33 PM   #8
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The appeals process is long enough to prevent that from happening.
No it isn't - demonstrably so.

It seems you are happy for an inncoent person to be murdered by the state for a crime they didn't commit.

I can't even begin to imagine how or why you would consider that even slightly acceptable.

Are there crimes so bad that people should never be free again. Yes. They should be put in prison for the rest of their lives. And if some new evidence comes to light that means they DIDN'T commit that crime, then they can be released and have their life back again.

You can't bring someone back from the dead. You can release someone from prison. Miscarriages of justice DO happen - ergo the death-penalty is fundamentally inexcusable.

Last edited by djellison; Aug 27, 2009 at 03:40 PM.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 08:59 PM   #9
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The article seems to speak more on the failures of the justice system then it does the death penalty. If a person can be sentenced to death with no hard evidence implicating them, that is a failure of the state.


Also remember that "Guilty beyond all reasonable doubt" really means, :"if it's lunch time you better hurry up."

Issues like this are because due process was not followed.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 08:21 AM   #10
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What a terrible story.

I'm against the death penalty. The costs are too great both financially and in possible errors leading to snuffing out the wrongfully accused. Besides, I think there are worse punishments than death. I merely wish a life sentence actually meant a life sentence.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 08:28 AM   #11
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Just look at this Lockerbie bomber case. Everyone was so dead set that he was responsible for the bombings and now we have 2 sets of evidence (currently unreleased) that have led the criminal review to suggest that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice.

Even without that evidence his case was circumstantial which funnily enough wasn't enough to convict the other defendant.

------

I was dead against the death penalty for many years, including my days as a law student. Though when I saw a video of some European teens going on a murder rampage and the sickenening way they tortured and maimed people and videoed it - I changed my mind. I honestly felt that I wanted to see them killed.

I think now that unless there is a new standard of proof brought into the system, one of absolute guilt, ie video of the people commiting the act, then I think that the death penalty should not be used.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 08:55 AM   #12
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The death penalty should occur only when there is inarguable evidence, such as a video/audio recording, a confession, or other sorts of inarguable evidence..
Sometimes I feel that the horrors some people commit against others should be committed on them. I often get scared by the atrocities some people can do.


I can't really think of anything right now, I'm not very knowledgeable in this subject, and I don't want to point out anything incorrect so I will leave it at that.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 10:20 AM   #13
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State-sanctioned murder is still murder. And any country that uses the death penalty deserves to be seen as barbaric.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 10:26 AM   #14
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State-sanctioned murder is still murder. And any country that uses the death penalty deserves to be seen as barbaric.
We murder in the 1000's over politics, but it's barbaric to lethally inject a serial killer?
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 04:21 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by tabasco70 View Post
The death penalty should occur only when there is inarguable evidence, such as a video/audio recording, a confession, or other sorts of inarguable evidence..
Sometimes I feel that . I often get scared by the atrocities some people can do.
Confessions are sometimes far from reliable
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7950613.stm
and to suggest that "the horrors some people commit against others should be committed on them" merely serves to validate such horrors by imitation rather than to consign them to the status of the unrepeatable, which is where they belong. Justice needs to be blind and dispassionate, otherwise it falls into vendetta, revenge and vigilantism, which serve no useful purpose and are ethically bankrupt.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 08:54 PM   #16
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Hardly, hopefully if he is proven innocent and released then he has the opportunity to try the best he can. You cannot judge that he will fail.

Who is to say they would have to wait 22 years in every case. At least there is a chance that a new evidence can be discovered or a terrible decision by a judge can be overturned.
I'm not saying he will fail; I'm saying he was robbed of several, if not many, years of his life, along with all the memories and material earnings he would have gotten along the way. That's as irrevocable as death. I'm saying that I'm okay with accepting both that risk and the miniscule risk of executing the wrong person. There are a great many checks in place to ensure it doesn't happen.

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Justice needs to be blind and dispassionate, otherwise it falls into vendetta, revenge and vigilantism, which serve no useful purpose and are ethically bankrupt.
Truer words have not been spoken. Justice as a result of passion or revenge can lead to the impression that an execution would resemble state-sanctioned murder. Justice as you describe it cannot, in my opinion, be seen as anything other than fair.
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