Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Tibetan protesters executed for Lhasa riot killings

Tibetan exiles have reported the first executions of those convicted for rioting last year in Lhasa, with at least two people put to death in a rare implementation of capital punishment in the restive region.

Two Tibetans convicted of arson and sentenced to death in April were executed on Tuesday morning in Lhasa, reported The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, which is based in the Indian town of Dharamsala — the home in exile of the Dalai Lama.

It said that Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak had been sentenced to death for their part in setting fire to five shops in the Tibetan capital, killing seven people, in the riot that rocked Lhasa in March last year. Officials say that 21 people — including three Tibetan protesters — died in the violence, which embarrassed Beijing just as it was preparing to stage the Olympic Games and prompted a security crackdown across the Himalayan region.

The body of Mr Gyaltsen had been returned to his family and then submitted to a river burial — an unusual form of funeral rite that is more common in southeastern Tibet. Sky burial is the usual ceremony in Lhasa. The ashes of Loyak were returned to his family, the centre said.
The centre reported that two other people may also have been executed. One had been sentenced to death, suspended for two years, a form that in almost all cases amount to life in prison. The fourth had been jailed for life.

The use of the death penalty has been extremely rare in Tibet over the past two decades, apparently amid anxiety that such punishments could set off renewed outbursts of anti-Chinese unrest.

In September 1987 two Tibetans were executed after a public rally in the Lhasa sports stadium that 14,000 people — mostly government workers — were required to attend. While those executed were convicted of ordinary criminal offences, the timing was thought to have been intended to convey a political message to Tibetans, since it came only a week after the Dalai Lama had publicised a peace plan in Washington.

Within days, Lhasa erupted in violence when Tibetans rushed through the streets calling on the Chinese to leave Tibet and setting fire to a police station opposite the Jokhang Temple in the city centre on October 1. More riots followed in early 1988 and in 1989, when martial law was imposed in the city.

The next executions were not until 1990 when two Tibetans accused of planning to escape from prison after receiving suspended death sentences on murder charges were shot by firing squad. Internal court documents showed that the pair had also started a pro-independence cell while in prison, along with other inmates.

The only other reported executions came during a nationwide crackdown on crime in 1996. State media said that 29 people, including 18 Tibetans, were put to death in various Tibetan cities. Across China, more than 2,200 people were executed in the "Strike Hard" campaign.

In the only politically linked execution to be publicly acknowledged, Lobsang Dondup a nomad, was executed in January 2003 in a Tibetan area of neighbouring Sichuan province for a series of bomb attacks over the previous four years.

Source: TIMESONLINE,Oct. 23, 2009

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