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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…

UAE: Alarm over requests for blood money

Lawyers and legal advocates are appalled by families who exploit the killing of a relative to demand huge sums of blood money from the perpetrator's family.

Although blood money, or diyya, is set at Dh200,000, some bereaved families have asked for millions of dirhams to overturn a death sentence for the killer.

"When a person has committed a murder and is sentenced to death, the victim's family is called in and asked 3 questions: Will you pardon the person? Will you accept Dh200,000 in exchange for a pardon? Do you insist that they be executed?" said a judge at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.

According to judicial officials, any amount above Dh200,000 in blood money that a family asks for is agreed to outside of court.

"Blood money is strictly set at Dh200,000, anything additional is considered compensation or reconciliation money so that the death penalty is not enforced," a judge said.

"It is a personal agreement between the 2 families, so they do not insist on the death penalty and are encouraged to pardon instead. It does not fall under the court's jurisdiction."

Lawyer Rashed Al Hajri said it was unacceptable for families to ask for huge sums of blood money, decrying that as a clear sign of greed.

"You cannot put a price on an individual or use his life as a bargaining tool to get as much money as possible. [But] it is understandable if the victim left behind young children and the family calculated the amount they would need to support these children."

Mr Al Hajri said the civil courts would determine the amount of compensation to the bereaved familes, "but to use something as big as pardoning a death sentence is not acceptable".

Lawyer Huda Al Falamarzy said she did not encourage families to ask for millions of dirhams in exchange for a pardon."Those who pardon will be rewarded by God and if they do pardon they should follow the legal course and not abuse the system by asking for millions," she said.

The law should place a limit on the amount of money that families can ask for, Ms Al???Falamarzy said.

Source: The National, April 30, 2016

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