Article: The New Yorker trial by fire by David Grann

1) What key element of the crime was missing from the beginning?

2) What is your reaction to defense attorney David Martin’s comment to the reporter: “Everyone thinks defense lawyers must believe their clients are innocent but that’s seldom true. Most of the time, they’re guilty as sin.”

3) How did the prosecution use Willingham’s refusal to accept a plea to a life sentence against him? Is there another way one could interpret his refusal?

4) What evidence did the defense produce at trial to refute the state’s claim of homicide?

5) What does the author mean when he says that Willingham “had trouble separating the mores in prison from those of the outside world?”

6) In America’s Colonial period, what kinds of crimes were punishable by death?

7) Since 1976, how many people on death row have been exonerated? Does this tell you anything about the death penalty?

8) Why did Willingham lie down in his cell when the warden told him, “It’s time.”

9) What are your reactions to the character Elizabeth Gilbert?

10) Did your level of support for the death penalty change after reading this article? What individual or body of individuals do you hold most responsible or consider the most reprehensible for Willingham’s execution?


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