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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…

Hamas 'to publicly execute two men in Gaza'

Amnesty calls for Gaza's ruling party to halt 'inhuman and degrading' executions it says will be carried out next week.

Hamas is planning to publicly execute two prisoners in Gaza as a "lesson" to others next week, according to the human rights organisation Amnesty International, which has described the move as deeply disturbing.

A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to death for "collaboration with an enemy entity". He told his lawyer he had been beaten during interrogation, Amnesty reported.

An appeal at a military court is scheduled for Wednesday but he will be at risk of imminent execution if it is unsuccessful.

The second man, aged 27, confessed to the rape and murder of a six-year-old boy in 2000. He was sentenced to death despite being a minor at the time. According to Amnesty, he was "apparently tortured to 'confess'" to the crime.

The pair are among 40 prisoners on death row in Gaza. The most recent executions, of two men convicted of collaborating, took place in June at a police compound. One of them reportedly confessed after being tortured, according to Amnesty.

"Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in the custody of Hamas security agencies are widespread and systematic," it added.

Philip Luther, the organisation's Middle East and north Africa director, called on Hamas to immediately halt imminent executions and commute all death sentences.

"This and other recent announcements by the Hamas authorities that they will carry out further executions are deeply disturbing," he said.

"The death penalty is cruel and inhuman and there is no evidence that it deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Public executions are degrading and compound the cruelty of the death penalty."

Hamas has carried out at least 16 executions since April 2010, according to Amnesty. Six suspected collaborators were shot dead in the street by masked gunmen shortly before the end of the war in Gaza last November.

Source: The Guardian, August 9, 2013

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