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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…

Iraq executes 17 convicted criminals in one day

February 1, 2012: Iraq executed 17 convicted criminals in one day this week, the justice ministry said, bringing to at least 51 the number so far this year.

"The justice ministry carried out (death) sentences against 17 people condemned for terrorist and criminal crimes ... on Tuesday (January 31)," a statement said.

"The ministry is continuing to carry out punishments against criminals according to the law and the constitution," Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari was quoted as saying.

Last month, ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said Iraq had so far executed 34 people this year, including two women and a Syrian. That is half the entire figure of 68 for all of 2011, including three foreigners and three Iraqi women.

The United Nations estimates that more than 1,200 people have been sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004, but it does not have comprehensive statistics on executions.

Death sentences in Iraq must be signed by the country's president, currently Jalal Talabani, but the chief executive may delegate that authority to either of the two vice presidents. As Talabani is an ardent opponent of the death penalty, that is what he does.

Source: Agence France-Presse, February 1, 2012

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