Administering The Death Penalty: The Case Of Cameron Todd Willingham
Read David Grann's article on Cameron Todd Willingham. It is long, but it
is certainly worth reading in full.
Then ask yourself the following question: Is it possible that Texas may
have sent an innocent man to death?
If you so much as hesitate before answering, then consider that whatever
your disposition on the issue of the death penalty, the administration of
the penalty mayto say the leastleave a lot to be desired. It is, of
course, entirely possible that Grann may have written his story in a
one-sided manner, that he left out key facts solidifying Willingham's
guilt, and that Willingham was indeed guilty of arson and murder. But if
he didn't, and the case against Willingham was as full of holes as Grann's
story suggests it was, then we are confronted with a veritable crisis in
our justice system.
I know that it is easy for death penalty supporters to dismiss Grann's
article, and to believe that the state of Texas got its man. There is a
lot invested in that belief; no supporter of the death penaltyand I count
myself as one who believes that there are certain crimes for which
execution is an appropriate responsewants to think that any innocent
person has been sent to his/her death. But the fact of the matter is that
DNA evidence has exonerated a number of people who were on death row.
While that is reassuring, the fact that innocent people were sentenced to
die is scary to contemplate. Just as scary is the fact that there are
plenty of crimes for which DNA evidence cannot be used to establish guilt
or innocence, leading to situations in which the prosecution and the
defense may be operating blind. In such situations, the defense may not be
able to resort to scientific evidence to be able to establish the
innocence of the accused, a handicap whichalong with the presence of
overworked and underqualified legal representation that may not care in
the slightest about the fate of the defendantmay lead to findings of guilt
even though the defendant is innocent of the crime charged.
Those who believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent against
crimes, or is an appropriate response to the commission of certain heinous
crimes should not shy away from reading about Cameron Todd Willingham, or
his eventual fate. Rather, they should be the 1st to read his story, and
to wonder whether or not Texas caused an innocent man to be executed.
Death penalty supporters should be the 1st to demandloudlythat the system
contain a whole host of failsafe devices designed to ensure that the right
person is convicted for the crimes he/she is accused of committing.
Of course, the prime reason for such vigilance from death penalty
supporters would be to make certain to the greatest degree possible that
no innocent person ends up on death row. But death penalty supporters
should also be vigilant in order to reform the system and make it work
right, instead of letting death penalty opponents use the lack of reform
as an excuse to abolish the penalty altogether.
(source: The New Ledger)
Levi King trial resumes Tuesday
The Levi King murder trial has been in recess since Friday, and will
resume Tuesday morning and a sentence is expected.
On Friday, jury members heard from the forensic pathologist who performed
autopsies on the victims, 31-year-old Brian Conrad, 35-year-old Michell
Conrad and her son 14-year-old Zach Doan. They all died of multiple
gunshot wounds. Michell Conrad was pregnant at the time, but the state
dropped the murder charge for the unborn child.
Levi King, 26, pleaded guilty to 3 counts of capital murder on Thursday.
He faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Day one of the trial included jurors hearing King admit to killing the
Pampa family, just hours after murdering a couple in Missouri. He was
sentenced to two life sentences for the Missouri murders.
The prosecution told jurors King entered the Conrad home firing rounds at
everyone inside, including the sole survivor, Michell's 10-year-old
daughter Robin, and the family dog. King fired a round at the 10-year-old
girl but missed, and she pretended to be dead.
The trial will resume Tuesday morning in the Lubbock County Courthouse
where a sentence is expected for Levi King.
(source: KCBD News)