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…

India: Kolhapur serial rapist to be hanged, President Pranab Mukherjee rejects mercy plea

President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy petition of a serial rapist, convicted for raping 4 minor girls and brutally killing 2 - aged 5 and 10 years. 

Kolhapur resident Mohan Anna Chavan had first raped a minor girl in 1989, for which he received a 2-year jail term and was soon out on bail. Once out of jail, he committed his 2nd rape - of a 9-year-old - the same year. This time, the court sentenced him to 10 years' rigorous imprisonment. 

In 1999, he completed his term and walked out of jail, but as a more heinous criminal.

He soon picked up 2 minor girls - aged 5 and 10 years - raped them, and killed them brutally. 

The court termed it as a "rarest of rare" case deserving death penalty. His mercy petition was finally rejected by the President on October 5. "Chavan has already exhausted all possible legal remedies and we expect to get the date for his execution soon," said a senior officer from the prison department. 

In 2008, the Supreme Court had first rejected his appeal against the Bombay High Court judgment upholding the lower court judgment, awarding him the death sentence.

"Shockingly, a large number of criminals go unpunished, thereby encouraging them ... Justice demands that courts should impose punishment befitting the crime so that courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime. The court must not only keep in view the rights of the criminal but also the rights of the victim of the crime and the society at large while considering the imposition of appropriate punishment," the apex court noted.

As per the prosecution, Sangita, 5, and Sheela, 10 (both names changed), were living in Gulamb village in Kolhapur and were studying in the Ist and the 4th standards, respectively. 

Chavan was their neighbour and lived there with his wife and daughter, who, too, testified in the court as a witnesses against Chavan. 

On December 14, 1999, Chavan had a scuffle with Tanaji Jadhav, cousin of Sangita and Sheela. He threatened Jadhav that he will settle the issue by the evening itself. Later in the day, Chavan went to a grocery shop with his daughter Reshma. The 2 girls were also there at the shop.

Both Reshma and Sheela asked him to buy them chocolates. On the pretext of not having change, Chavan sent his daughter Reshma home and asked the two girls to accompany him. He then took them to an isolated place and raped them and threw Sangita's body into a nearby well. He hid Sheela's body in a bush.

When the 2 girls didn't return home, angry villagers nabbed Chavan since the girls were last seen with him. Soon, he was handed over to the police and he was convicted on the basis of strong circumstantial evidence.

Circumstantial evidence nailed Chavan in court. The deceased were last seen with him. Forensic report confirmed that the clothes of Chavan were stained with blood Group A, which is the blood group of both the victims Dead bodies of both girls were recovered on his disclosure.

Source: dnaindia.com, November 2, 2015

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