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.
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…

Mary Jane Veloso: A powerful argument vs death penalty revival

The large number of Filipinos facing the death penalty overseas provides a powerful argument against the revival of capital punishment here at home, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said in a news release Sunday.

"There's no question our abolition of the death penalty has given us greater leverage to appeal to foreign governments on humanitarian grounds for the lives of our own citizens who are facing execution abroad," Romulo said.

"We now have the moral high ground. Otherwise, it would be extremely difficult for us to beg for mercy if we ourselves are putting our convicts here to death - if we ourselves have little or no regard for the sanctity of human life," Romulo said.

Romulo's remarks came shortly after a group of Filipino migrants expressed fears that Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipino on death row in Indonesia, may be executed soon after the end of Ramadan, following a 10-week reprieve.

The Indonesian government is expected to release after July 17 a new list of convicts set to be executed by firing squad, and it may include Veloso, according to Migrante International.

But Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was still verifying the report with Indonesian authorities.

"We have millions of citizens working or travelling abroad. Many of them are in countries that still carry out executions. These Filipinos may be vulnerable when they get into trouble with the law in their host countries," Romulo warned.

Romulo said 57 countries around the world still subscribe to capital punishment, and many of them are actively putting convicts to death.

Besides Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China, the United States, Kuwait, and Thailand, he said the other countries still performing executions and hosting many Filipino citizens include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore, among others.

"The problem with the death penalty is that once the convict is killed, there's absolutely no room for correction. We can't resurrect a dead prisoner, even if somebody else later confesses to having committed the crime for which the convict had been condemned," Romulo said.

Veloso, 31, was supposed to be executed on April 29, 2015, but obtained a last-minute reprieve after the Philippines asked Indonesia that she be allowed to provide testimonial evidence against her alleged human trafficker, Maria Kristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao.

The Philippine government has since scrambled to build a strong case showing that Veloso was a mere victim of human trafficking, and that she had been exploited by a West African drug syndicate to smuggle 2.6 kilos of heroin into Jakarta.

Philippine authorities hope to persuade their Indonesian counterparts to reopen Veloso's case and further suspend her execution by firing squad.

Besides Veloso, at least 88 other Filipinos are known to be on death row abroad -- in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China, the US, Kuwait, and Thailand.

Of the 88, the DFA said 41 were convicted of drug offenses while the rest were condemned for murder.

Congress reinstated the death penalty for 13 heinous crimes in 1993, only to get rid of it in 2006 due to mounting flaws.

That year, then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban belatedly admitted that a "judicial error" had caused the wrongful execution of incestuous rape convict Leo Echegaray in 1999.

Panganiban said it was proven during trial that Echegaray was not "a father, stepfather, or grandfather" of the victim, and that while the house painter may have been "a common-law spouse of the mother of the victim," this circumstance was never alleged in the complaint.

The law at that time imposed the death penalty on "rape committed when the victim is under 18 years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the 3rd civil degree, or the common-law-spouse of the parent of the victim."

Source: interaksyon.com, July 12, 2015

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