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

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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…

China businesswoman gets death sentence for fraud

BEIJING — A Chinese businesswoman was sentenced to death Friday for cheating investors out of $56 million — the latest case in the country's struggle against widespread corruption.

The 28-year-old Wu Ying started out a decade ago with a single beauty salon but eventually built up a holding group, Bense Holdings, that was known around the country, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report said Wu collected the $56 million from investors over two years and was arrested in 2007.

Video posted online of her sentencing had the petite, ponytailed Wu showing little emotion as she was led into the courtroom.

In China, the death penalty is used even for nonviolent crimes such as corruption or tax evasion. The country's highest court, which reviews all death sentences, this year called for it to be used less often and for only the most serious criminal cases.

The Intermediate People's Court in Jinhua city, eastern Zhejiang province, said Wu used the money for personal use and operating costs and to pay off loans.

The Xinhua report said Wu confessed but then retracted her confession in April.

Rights group Amnesty International has said China put at least 1,718 people to death in 2008.

Source: The Associated Press, December 18, 2009

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