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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…

Taliban hangs five in Afghanistan

(Reuters) - The Taliban executed five people in a busy opium market in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province and left their bodies hanging overnight after accusing them of kidnapping a businessman, officials told Reuters.

The militant group has stepped up its fight for control of the southern region since June, launching a string of attacks on government buildings, seizing territory and imposing its brand of Islamic justice.

Thursday's public hanging, in the largely Taliban-controlled Kajaki district, was the second group execution reported in Helmand since the offensive began.

"Five kidnappers ... were hanged to death by an order from the Islamic Emirate's prosecution authorities," a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said in a text message.

"We hanged them in order to teach others a lesson."

Mass public executions, common when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996, ceased after the movement was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

But the Taliban's reach in strategic provinces like Helmand has grown since U.S. and allied troops stepped up the pace of their withdrawal, under plans to hand over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Source: Reuters, August 16, 2014

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