Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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.
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Most Vietnamese lawmakers insist on death penalty for over 70-year-old criminals

HANOI, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Most Vietnamese lawmakers said no exception for applying death penalty on over 70-year-old criminals at a hall discussion held in capital Hanoi on Tuesday during the ongoing ninth session of the 13th tenure of Vietnam's National Assembly (NA).

The amended Penal Code draft states several cases not applying death penalty, including to criminals who are over 70 years old.

However, the proposal faced opposition "from most of the law- makers", Bao Giao Thong (Transport News), an online newspaper under the ministry of transport reported on Tuesday.

Tran Thi Dung, an NA deputy said that death penalty is the highest sanction which deprive right to life of a citizen. As a result, removal of death penalty on which crimes needs consideration.

"I myself do not agree with the regulation to remove death penalty among criminals who are over 70 years old. In fact, many criminals whose ages exceed 70 have conducted seriously illegal activities. Most of them are healthy enough and may continue to violate the laws," Dung said.

Echoing Dung, NA deputy Nguyen Thanh Binh said if death penalty among people at their 70s is stopped, laws will have not enough deterrence.

It is necessary to maintain death penalty among people aging 70 years or older, Vietnam's state-run news agency VNA quoted Binh as saying on Tuesday.

NA deputy Truong Thai Hien seemed to hold the same view as arguing that, at their 70s, people should act as a mirror for their offspring. If they conduct actions that seriously violate the laws, they will have negative impacts on the public. Their activities thus need to be punished.

Hien jumped to conclusion that it is impossible to abandon death penalty in this case, reported Bao Giao Thong.

Vu Thi Nguyet, an NA deputy was quoted by Vietnam's state-run radio VOV on Tuesday that the regulation in the amended Penal Code draft is not suitable with reality.

"Based on which criteria can the drafting committee of the law think over-70-year-old people should not be applied with death penalty?" Nguyet questioned.

At the same time, during the hall discussion, many deputies were afraid that no death penalty among criminals aging over 70 will provide them chance to delay and escape from punishment, thus not guarantee the rule of law.

The draft will continue to be reviewed by the NA at the next session.

The ninth session of the 13th tenure of Vietnam's NA opened on May 20 and is expected to last till June 26.

Source: Xinhua, June 16, 2015

National Assembly amends death penalty

HA NOI (VNS) — Lawmakers yesterday agreed to abolish the death penalty for several crime categories, but many insisted the death sentence for corruption remain, saying that if the crime was not punished properly, it would cause disorder in society.

Discussing the revised Penal Code at the on-going ninth National Assembly (NA) session, deputies said that the number of death penalties should be reduced and the numbers of those given amnesty increased.

The majority of the NA Committee for Justice members agreed to abolish seven out of 22 categories attracting the death penalty, including robbery, destroying important works, creating war and for war crimes.

In a talk with reporters, Nguyen Ba Thuyen from the southern province of Lam Dong, welcomed the move, saying that the abolishment showed the humanity of the revised code.

However, he disapproved the abolishment of the penalty for drug trafficking and trading. "Traffickers and traders may take advantage of this regulation to avoid the death sentence," he said.

Nguyen Thanh Binh from the southern province of Vinh Long said that war criminals should not be abolished from the list of crimes attracting the death penalty.

"This crime is especially serious which is against the human race and causes serious consequences to a region or a country," he said.

Economic crime

However, the Minister of Planning and Investment, Bui Quang Vinh, opposed the dropping of the crime "deliberate wrongdoing in State's economic management regulations causing serious consequences" from the death penalty list. Many deputies opposed him.

Vinh said that there should be economic measures to punish such crimes.

He argued that in some cases, the death penalty was not good as the Government could not take the illegal money and properties back. But if the law-breaker was let live, the Government would get the money returned," he said.

Vinh pleaded for a limit to the criminalisation of economic wrongdoing, saying that there should be detailed regulations for different categories.

His views faced opposition from many NA deputies who said that economic wrongdoing was corruption and it should not be tolerated.

Nguyen Thi Kha from the southern province of Tra Vinh said that she disagreed totally with the minister's opinion.

"If the law-breakers are not discovered, they will live their luxurious life into old age. Even if they are discovered, all they have to do to avoid the death penatly is to pay a sum of money. This makes the law unfair and distorted," she said.

Sharing her opinion, Nguyen Doan Khanh from the northern province of Phu Tho, who is also the Deputy Head of the Central Party Committee's Inspection Commission, said that removing economic wrongdoing from the death penalty would hamper the fight against corruption.

Do Ngoc Nien from the central province of Binh Thuan said that the abolishment of economic crimes from the death list would be unfair to others sentenced to death and created a loophole for corrupt people.

"In order to get rid of the national problem of corruption, we should have had stricter punishments. But we are going the opposite way by doing this," he said.

"We cannot trade people's trust, change justice and tolerate corruption by allowing money to replace the death sentence," he added.

A regulation not to apply the death sentence to law-breakers to those above 70 also faced opposition.

Many deputies said that many people at that ages committed serious crimes. Some were even leaders of criminal rings, they said, urging for the maintenance of the punishment on those above 70.

Source: VNS, June 17, 2015
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