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Texas appeals court halts hearing on 2004 execution

AUSTIN, Texas — A state appeals court halted a hearing Thursday into whether a Texas man was wrongly executed because of faulty arson evidence.

The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin granted the emergency stay and ordered state District Judge Charlie Baird not to rule on the case. The order gives Innocence Project lawyers seeking to clear Cameron Todd Willingham's name until Oct. 22 to respond.

Willingham was executed in 2004 after being convicted of setting fire to his house in Corsicana in 1991, killing his three daughters.

Navarro County District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson, whose office convicted Willingham in 1992, sought the stay after Baird declined to recuse himself.

Thompson has questioned Baird's impartiality, noting he received an award this year from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The appeals court order came at the end of an afternoon of testimony in which two fire experts said the blaze that killed Willingham's three daughters was an accident, not arson.

Texas appeals court halts hearing on 2004 execution 10/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 14, 2010 11:47pm]

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