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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Taiwan to Continue Enforcing Death Penalty

Taiwan says it will continue to enforce the death penalty, despite international appeals to end capital punishment on the island.

Taiwan has executed 15 people since 2010, when it ended a 5-year informal moratorium on the death penalty. 6 people were put to death in the latest round of executions in December 2012.

The firing-squad executions have generated outcries from European Union members and human rights groups. Last week, Amnesty International gave Taiwan a petition calling for a suspension of the death penalty with more than 100,000 signatures from French citizens.

Taiwan Deputy Justice Minister Chen Shou-huang tells VOA only murderers who kill more than 1 person or use brutality face the death penalty. He says the government is seeking understanding from its critics.

He says Taiwan has reached out to diplomats in European Union countries and diplomatic missions throughout the world to explain, in specific terms, the reasons why Taiwan must enforce the death penalty.

Opinion polls in Taiwan indicate 77 % of the public supports capital punishment. Cases such as the murder of a 10-year-old boy in December particularly stimulate popular support.

Space is also harder to find for convicts sentenced to the alternative life in prison.

But, despite the logistical and political merits, questions still remain. 2 years ago, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou apologized for the wrongful execution of a soldier accused of murdering a child in 1996.

And, some observers say international criticism of Taiwan's decision could diminish efforts to distinguish, itself, diplomatically from China, which claims sovereignty of the self-ruled island and also administers the death penalty.

Since Ma took office in 2008, he has tried to use so-called "soft power" to highlight Taiwanese cultural and humanitarian achievements that China cannot match.

Lin Hsin-yi, executive director with the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, says human rights criticism from abroad will hurt the soft-power cause.

She says human rights represents the best possibility for Taiwan to express its soft power. She says, in a comparison of the human rights performances of Taiwan and China, Taiwan's government might say it is seen by the world as superior in terms of democracy, freedom and strength of human rights. But now, she says, suddenly you might see China advancing.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said this month that foreign criticism of its death penalty will not impact relations with other countries.

Source: Voice of America News, Feb. 27, 2013

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