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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…

Australia: Barrister Julian McMahon is Victoria's nomination for Australian of the Year

Barrister Julian McMahon
Barrister Julian McMahon
Barrister Julian McMahon fought tirelessly to try and save the lives of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and is Victoria's nomination for Australian of the Year.

A fierce opponent of the death penalty and a defender of human rights, he has worked to save the lives of Australians facing the death penalty overseas for the past 13 years.

He studied law in Melbourne and first decided he wanted to become a lawyer while in secondary school in Sydney.

"As a teenager I definitely developed an interest in law watching Rumpole of the Bailey," Mr McMahon told AAP.

His first work on a death penalty case was Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore in 2002 as a "relatively new and raw barrister with four years experience".

But despite a fight from McMahon and the legal team, and pleas for clemency by the Australian government, Nguyen was executed for drug trafficking.

McMahon has since gone on to represent several death penalty cases involving Australians, including George Forbes in Sudan, who ultimately returned home to Sydney, and Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Since the executions of the pair in April last year, he has presented at the Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty in Malaysia and continues to speak out in opposition to the death penalty around the world.

McMahon says the long, drawn-out death penalty cases do take their toll but he just has to "get on with it".

"I would say that lots of people have difficult or demanding jobs and lives, but what I do is nothing compared to lifetime carers of people suffering serious disabilities," he said.

"I just feel embarrassed when people say `you're so amazing', when the fact is I'm doing my work the best I can and it's not as hard as what a lot of people have to do."

If McMahon becomes Australian of the Year, he says he will educate young people on death penalty issues and continue to help society's most marginalised people.

"If I was privileged to get that nomination, I would aim to use it to benefit the most marginalised people in society and the volunteers that help them."

VICTORIAN AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Julian McMahon. Barrister and human rights advocate and fierce opponent of the death penalty.

SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Jack Charles. Indigenous elder, member of the Stolen Generation, role model and one of Australia's most respected actors.

YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Robert Gillies. A co-founder of Homeless of Melbourne.

AUSTRALIA'S LOCAL HEROES

Rebecca Scott. The founder of STREAT, a social enterprise business model that provides hospitality training for homeless and at risk youth

Source: AAP, January 21, 2016

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