Capital Punishment
August 4, 2014
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Maurice Possley of The Marshall Project, writing in The Washington Post, reports that new evidence has emerged showing that Texas wrongly executed Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 for killing his three daughters. Willingham is widely considered to be the first known case of an innocent man being put to death by the U.S. justice system.

The forensic case against Willingham — he was accused of setting fire to the house where his daughters were sleeping in 1991 — fell apart long ago. (Debunking the accusations of arson was a key aspect of a famous New Yorker profile of Willingham.) That left the testimony of Johnny E. Webb, a felon who had shared a prison cell with Willingham and who had testified that Willingham had confessed to the crime.

In recent interviews with the Innocence Project, Webb reportedly recanted those claims. Egged on by John H. Jackson, a former prosecutor, Webb reportedly implicated Willingham in exchange for Jackson's help in reducing his sentence.

"He [Jackson] had me believing 100 percent this dude was guilty — that's why I testified," Webb said. "The perks — they was willing to do anything to help me. No one has ever done that, so why wouldn't I help them?"

In fact, Webb said, Willingham "never told me nothing." [The Washington Post]

The state of Texas has long defended Willingham's execution. As recently as 2009, Gov. Rick Perry (R) maintained that Willingham was a "monster." Ryu Spaeth

Finally
11:19 p.m. ET

It took 56 years for the law to finally catch up with Frank Freshwaters.

In 1957, Freshwaters was convicted of manslaughter for killing a pedestrian with a vehicle, and he was given a sentence of 1 to 20 years in prison. He violated his probation by obtaining a driver's license and was sent to prison, but he didn't stay long; in 1959, Freshwaters simply walked away from the Ohio prison farm where he was incarcerated. In 1975, he was arrested in West Virginia, but the governor would not extradite him, so he fled again.

U.S. Marshals from Ohio tracked him down to Florida, and with assistance from local deputies, came up with a ruse so he would sign papers. After matching the fingerprints with an old sample from Freshwaters, he was taken into custody at his home. "We couldn't go with a picture and see if it's that guy," Maj. Tod Goodyear told The Associated Press. "You look different than you do 50 years ago." Goodyear said that Freshwaters was a retired truck driver who lived off of Social Security benefits in a remote trailer. "It's a nice place to kind of hang out by yourself if you don't want people to know you're there," he added. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office said that Freshwaters was booked under the name Harold F. Freshwater, and he is being held without bond. Catherine Garcia

This week in Washington
10:24 p.m. ET
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On Tuesday, the Senate passed a GOP-backed joint budget resolution, the first approved in five years.

Republicans say that the Senate Appropriations Committee will now start to draft spending bills cutting $496 billion in non-defense spending over the next 10 years, The Washington Post reports. The budget framework complies with domestic spending caps included in the 2011 Budget Control Act, commonly referred to as the sequester, and also uses almost $40 billion in off-budget funds to increase defense spending to more than $563 billion.

No Democrats voted for the resolution, and they said they would block cuts to medical research, housing programs for low-income workers, food stamps, and federal Pell Grants. "We're not going to sign on to a bill that goes to the sequester levels," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "There is no reason for us to support these funding levels on the domestic side." Catherine Garcia

Quotables
9:18 p.m. ET
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During a round-table discussion at a high school in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton stated that she supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who live in the United States, telling the audience, "We can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship."

Clinton did not name anyone specifically, but said there is a sharp distinction between her stance and the views of Republican presidential candidates, adding, "When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status." Before the event, Clinton's campaign announced she supports a plan that "treats anyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rules of law, protects our border and national security, and brings hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy so they can pay taxes and contribute to our nation's prosperity," USA Today reports. Catherine Garcia

RIP
8:43 p.m. ET

Ellen Albertini Dow, the actress best known for stealing the show in The Wedding Singer when she performed "Rapper's Delight," died Monday. She was 101.

Dow appeared on numerous television shows, including Seinfeld, New Girl, The Golden Girls, and Six Feet Under, as well as major movies Sister Act, Patch Adams, and 54. Before landing onscreen roles, Dow was a dancer, theater actress, comedian, and mime who trained with Marcel Marceau in Paris. Once she moved to Los Angeles, she taught in the drama department of Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley, where she worked alongside her husband, Eugene Dow. She retired in 1985, and landed her first film role later that year. —Catherine Garcia

survey says
7:59 p.m. ET
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A New York Times/CBS News poll has found that Americans view Hillary Clinton more favorably now than they did earlier this year.

The number of Americans who say Clinton has strong leadership qualities is up 8 percentage points to 65 percent, from 57 percent, and about 48 percent say she is honest and trustworthy. Among Democrats, 52 percent said they are not familiar with the Clinton Foundation, only 9 percent said they would not consider voting for her, and nearly 9 in 10 said it's time for the U.S. to have a woman president. Her husband remains extremely popular among Democrats: 76 percent have a favorable view of former President Bill Clinton, and just 4 percent view him unfavorably.

On the Republican side, nearly 75 percent have a favorable opinion of former President George W. Bush, but almost 70 percent do not have an opinion one way or another about his brother, likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush. When asked who they would not support, 13 percent of Republicans said they would not consider voting for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), 17 percent said they would not back Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), 26 percent said they would not support Mike Huckabee, and 42 percent said they would not consider backing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Overall, 43 percent of Americans said they had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, and 29 percent said the same about the Republican Party. On same-sex marriage, two-thirds of Democrats support legalizing it, while roughly the same percentage of Republicans are opposed. Regarding immigration, 46 percent of Republicans said undocumented immigrants should have to leave the U.S., while just 16 percent of Democrats agreed. The poll was conducted by telephone, both landlines and cell phones, from April 30 to May 3, with 1,027 adults responding. Catherine Garcia

Business
6:56 p.m. ET
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Ferry service for authorized U.S. travelers between Florida and Cuba could start within the next few weeks, now that four companies have received approvals from the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments.

It's the first time approvals have been handed out since the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba nearly five decades ago, the Sun Sentinel reports. The companies are based in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando, and will charge passengers less than what it would cost to take a charter flight. For now, the ferries can only take passengers from 12 categories who no longer need a license in advance to visit Cuba, including people who are visiting family and people taking a religious pilgrimage.

The companies are hoping to start service within the next few weeks. Havana Ferry Partners, for example, wants to launch a 200-passenger vessel between Key West and Havana. It would likely cost around $300 or $350 round trip, and passengers could bring up to 200 pounds of luggage free of charge. There are still some companies waiting for their licenses, but they're not worried about missing out on a business opportunity. "We know ours is coming," President Brian Hall of CubaKat, based in the Jacksonville area, said. "One ferry company can't pull this off by itself. There's so many people who want to go to Cuba." Catherine Garcia

Quotables
5:28 p.m. ET
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The editor-in-chief of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo says that unlike the organizers behind a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, his publication never intends to denigrate entire swaths of people.

"When we make a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad, or Jesus, or Moses, we don't mock or attack people," Gerard Biard said Tuesday at an event in New York, according to The Guardian. "We mock or attack institutions, representatives, powers, and, again, political powers."

Organized by anti-Islam crusader Pamela Geller, the Texas event challenged participants to draw caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Two gunmen attempted to attack the contest but were shot dead after injuring only one person.

Distancing himself and his publication further from the contest, Biard added that while Geller "wakes every morning and thinks, 'How can I defy these people?,'" he wakes up wondering, "Where's my coffee?" Jon Terbush

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