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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…

Pakistan refuses to consider evidence of juvenility in hanging slated for Tuesday

Courts in Pakistan have refused to consider evidence that a man set to be executed at dawn on Tuesday was a child at the time of his conviction.

Ansar Iqbal was arrested in 1994 on murder charges – which he denies – and sentenced to death in 1996, despite telling the court he was 15 at the time of his arrest.

All the documentary evidence provided to the courts during his trial or appeal indicated that Iqbal was a child at the time of the alleged offence. However, the courts instead chose to believe the estimate of police officers that he was in his 20s – despite no documentary evidence being provided to support the claim.

Iqbal did not have a birth certificate to submit in the early stages of the legal process because he was not registered at the time of his birth – in common with an estimated 2/3 of Pakistanis. He instead submitted school and other family records, which were dismissed by the courts. When his appeal reached Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlier this year, he provided a birth certificate issued by the country’s official National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA)in 2015, which gave his date of birth as 25.12.1978 – confirming Iqbal’s account that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence in 1994.

However, the Supreme Court refused to consider this document on the basis that he had submitted it several years too late – even though Iqbal could not have submitted a birth certificate at an earlier stage, having not been formally registered at the time of his birth, like millions of other Pakistanis.

The execution of people who were children at the time of the alleged offence has long been banned under both international and Pakistani law. However, Pakistan’s authorities have often refused to investigate juvenility claims, and the country has seen at least three people executed since December for allegedly committing offences as children.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said: “It is a fundamental principle of Pakistani and international law that children should not be sentenced to death. Where there is evidence to suggest that a defendant was a child at the time of arrest, this evidence must be properly considered, and doubt resolved in favour of the defendant. To do otherwise would be an offence to natural justice and common humanity.

“In Ansar's case, none of the documentary evidence of his juvenility that was presented to court was given proper consideration. Instead, the courts relied solely on an estimation of his age in the police record, and now Ansar faces death by hanging at dawn on Tuesday. Pakistan has already executed at least three people convicted as children since December. On Tuesday morning they risk hanging another. The Pakistani authorities must stay this execution and allow a full examination of the evidence.”

Source: Reprieve, Sept. 27, 2015

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