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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…

India's SC junks petition seeking abolition of death sentence

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to re-examine the Constitutional validity of death sentence in the light of the evolving jurisprudence across the world to do away with the extreme punishment and dismissed a plea seeking abolition of capital punishment.

A bench of Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy refused to entertain a PIL pleading the court to revisit the relevance of death sentence in a modern society on the ground that it failed to act as deterrent and resulted in violation of human rights.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, the total number of death sentences handed out by courts between 1998 and 2013 was 2052, an average of 132 a year. But in most of the cases, awarding extreme punishment could not get approval from the higher courts. The SC confirms barely 3 to 4 death sentences each year. Over 64 people were awarded death sentence by lower courts in 2014, according to Amnesty International's Death Penalty Report 2015.

Although death sentence has been executed only in 4 cases in the last 15 years, civil rights groups have been very vocal about its abolition terming it "barbaric and a form of judicial killing". Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon was executed last year preceded by Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru (2013), 26/11 Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab (2012) and Dhananjoy Chatterjee (2004).

Advocate Mathews Nedumpara told the bench that the apex court in its various judgements had underscored the "vice" of arbitrariness in awarding death sentence. He told the bench that the 'rarest of the rare' theory, propounded by the SC 35 years ago, has been variedly and inconsistently applied which needed to be examined.

"There have been and always will be cases of executions of innocent people. No matter how developed a judicial system is, it will always remain susceptible to human failure," the petitioner said, adding, "At the time of Independence, the capital punishment was order all over the world, but with passage of time it came to be considered to be inhuman and it was abolished in all European countries."

Source: The Times of India, March 15, 2016

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