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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…

Philippines: 'Alcatraz' for drug lords pushed

New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa
New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa
Of the country's 7,107 islands, 1 can have a special purpose.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III said he would start his stint in the 17th Congress by reviving his proposal to have an "Alcatraz-style" prison island for convicted drug traffickers, who could allegedly still run their lucrative business from the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.

Sotto on Wednesday said he would refile his Senate Bill No. 3326 on July 1. The bill calls for the segregation of so-called VIP prisoners, who would otherwise be sent to the lethal injection chamber if the country is still imposing capital punishment.

If passed, he said, the bill would do away with the need to reimpose the death penalty on high-level drug lords, as being espoused by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.

Speaking at the Kapihan sa Senado forum, Sotto said the proposal to reimpose the death penalty would not be retroactive and thus not applicable to convicted drug lords who continue to find ways to operate behind bars.

Even if there was optimism that the Senate measure might be passed in 3 to 5 months, Sotto said there was no assurance that the death penalty would be implemented because some groups would likely challenge it in the Supreme Court.

Still, he said, he intended to refile his bill in order to stop the continued operations of the drug convicts.

"Segregation is allowed by the Constitution," Sotto said. "If you segregate (high-level drug convicts) and establish a national penitentiary for high-level drug crimes, this will be more restrictive as they will be confined in 1 place and they can be watched closely."

"If they are confined in a rocky island in Palawan ... Alcatraz-style, they cannot operate anymore. There will be no phones, no cell sites."

This would be a big change from their current condition at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, which is also coping with overcrowding and "where a lot of things are happening," he said.

Source: Philippine Inquirer, June 16, 2016


Gabriela to join 'super majority' despite opposition to death penalty

Although it is joining the "super majority" coalition in the incoming Congress, Gabriela Women's party-list will still oppose President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's plan to reinstate the death penalty. Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the group is against bringing back capital punishment since the state of the country's justice system leaves much to be desired.

The revival of death penalty is 1 of the 3 priority measures of the Duterte administration, the other 2 being the shift to federalism and the lowering the age of criminal responsibility for minors.

Despite disagreeing with Duterte's stand on the death penalty, De Jesus said Gabriela and other progressive party-list organizations under the Makabayan bloc will be part of the super majority coalition led by the emerging dominant party, the PDP-Laban. She said their decision was borne out of optimism to give Duterte's administration a chance to make good on his promises.

However, the lawmaker maintained that their membership in the majority bloc is not tantamount to keeping silent on pressing issues.

Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte's choice as the next Speaker, said at least 200 lawmakers from various political parties have joined the super majority bloc in the House. Its size is expected to help fast-track the passage of the incoming administration's priority bills.

For his part, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said he is hopeful that the minority bloc in the incoming Congress will actively do its role in holding the Duterte administration accountable no matter how small its composition will be.

"I hope the minority will become the fearless few," said the Liberal Party stalwart, who has expressed his desire to become part of the minority.

Alvarez earlier said he plans to reduce the membership of the House minority coalition to a "bitesize" of around 20 lawmakers.

Among the parties that have expressed interest in joining the minority is the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay. LP, meanwhile, is in talks with PDP-Laban to join the super majority coalition.

Source: gmanetwork.com, June 16, 2016

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