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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…

President asks China to spare Filipino woman scheduled to be executed for drug trafficking

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has asked his Chinese counterpart to spare a Filipino woman facing execution for trafficking 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of heroin into the country, officials said Thursday.

The 35-year-old woman is scheduled to be executed anytime between Thursday and July 2, and her family is preparing to travel to China for what could be their final meeting, said Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

He told reporters that the woman was arrested at the Hangzhou International Airport in January 2011 along with a Filipino man. She travelled as a tourist and has been convicted of hiding the heroin in her luggage. Her companion was sentenced to death with a 2-year reprieve.

Hernandez quoted Chinese authorities as saying that the woman had trafficked illegal drugs to China 18 times since 2008 and was paid $3,000 to $4,000 per trip. She pleaded not guilty but the evidence against her was overwhelming, Hernandez said.

He said Aquino's letter asking for President Xi Jinping to commute her death sentence to life imprisonment will be delivered later Thursday.

China has previously ignored such appeals and executed 4 Filipino drug convicts in 2011.

Relations between the Philippines and China have been strained over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, but Hernandez said that the Philippines respects Chinese laws and the verdict of the Supreme People's court.

"The Philippine government itself has a strong anti-illegal drug policy and is closely co-operating with law enforcement agencies in China and other countries in efforts against drug trafficking," he said.

The Philippines does not have the death penalty, while China executes more people than any other country. It keeps the data strictly secret, and no reliable estimates on its number of executions are available.

Source: Montreal Gazette, June 26, 2013

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