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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…

India's SC commutes death penalty of 3 convicts

India's Supreme Court
India's Supreme Court
Sixteen years after they torched a bus and burnt to death three college girls while protesting the arrest of the then AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Friday commuted the death penalty of all three convicts to life imprisonment, saying the incident happened in a flash during mob frenzy and is not pre-meditated.

Rolling back its own judgment confirming the death penalty awarded to the three men, the Supreme Court accepted their defence of “diminished responsibility” and reasoned that the convicts had not even know their victims and their crime did not deserve the death penalty.

A tri-judge Bench, led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, agreed with defence counsel and senior advocate L. Nageshwar Rao that mobs go berserk and possess a demented sight of what is around them.

The State of Tamil Nadu, the prosecuting agency in the case, represented by advocate Yogesh Kanna, submitted that the Bench should decide the review petition on its merits.

In an earlier hearing on the petition, Mr. Rao had referred to the riots after the killing of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to argue that the accused, who were part of a rampaging mob, cannot be held fully criminally liable for the crime as their mental capacity were impaired at the time.

The college students - Kokilavani, Gayathri and Hemalatha of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, died when the bus they were travelling in, along with 44 other students and two teachers, was torched on February 2, 2000.

“Mobs go berserk. Reason does not enter their minds. After the judgment at 10.30 am, the agitations had started. There was absolutely no pre-meditation. There was a workshop nearby, they took petrol from there and started sprinkling it on the buses,” Mr. Rao had recounted the events of the fateful day.

Mr. Kumar said the accused were only “looking for some government property to destroy and were not targeting human lives”.

Mr. Rao argued that death was too harsh a punishment as the convicts had no personal animosity towards their victims and were themselves the victims of mob psychology.

Review petition

The review petition of the three death row convicts – Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan – is being heard after a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ordered limited, open court hearing before a three-judge Bench in case of death penalty reviews.

Source: The Hindu, March 12, 2016

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