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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…

Japan lawyers' group slams 'inhumane' death penalty, calls for suspension, national debate

Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center, Japan
Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center, Japan
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations on Wednesday condemned capital punishment as "inhumane" and called on Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki to set up an panel of experts to review the policy.

It said the body should start a national debate about a practice already abandoned in Europe and elsewhere.

The lawyers' group, an influential body representing Japan's legal profession, said the panel should include people for, against and neutral toward the death penalty.

The secrecy surrounding executions in Japan has been criticized at home and abroad, with neither death row inmates nor their lawyers and families given advance notice executions, which take place by hanging.

It is also unclear what criteria authorities use in deciding when inmates are to be executed, as some remain on death row for years.

Making its case, the group noted that 140 countries have abolished the death penalty by law or in practice as of the end of 2014. It also cited a recommendation by the U.N. Human Rights Committee that urged Japan to "give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty."

The group said: "The death penalty is one of the most important human rights problems facing Japan."

Moreover, it called for a suspension of executions while the nation debates the policy.

"We have called for public debate over the abolition of capital punishment," the group said. "It is because the death penalty is an inhumane punishment and it eliminates the possibility of rehabilitating those who commit crimes."

It added: "Trials always carry a risk of misjudgment, and if a wrong judgment leads to capital punishment, it cannot be corrected."

Source: Japan Times, December 9, 2015

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