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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…

Japan: Top court upholds death sentence for killer of two women

Tokyo street, Japan
CRIME JUL. 22, 2016 - 10:40AM JST ( 8 ) TOKYO — The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal from a man who was sentenced to death in 2013 for murdering the mother and grandmother of a woman he had been stalking.

Gota Tsutsui, 31, from Kuwana in Mie Prefecture, was convicted of stabbing to death Mitsuko Yamashita, 56, and her mother, Hisae Yamashita, 77, in the back of their minivan outside their home in Saikai, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Dec 16, 2011. The victims were the mother and grandmother of Tsutsui’s former girlfriend.

Prior to the murders, Tsutsui sent 17 emails to the woman’s relatives threatening to kill them if they interfered with his efforts to get back together with his ex-girlfriend.

Tsutsui admitted to killing the two women when he was arrested but during his trial, he changed his plea to not guilty, claiming the police had coerced him to confess, Fuji TV reported. However, the Nagasaki District Court sentenced him to death.

The Supreme Court ruled that Tsutsui’s confession was credible and finalized the death sentence.

The case gained notoriety when it was revealed that Chiba prefectural police failed to act on a complaint against the stalker and went off on a holiday.

After the murders, the National Public Safety Commission reprimanded 20 police officers at Chiba police headquarters, and at Narashino police station, where the complaint was filed.

The court heard that Tsutsui had been warned twice by Chiba police and was already under investigation for assaulting Mitsuko Yamashita’s then 23-year-old daughter.

The girl’s father, Makoto Yamashita, first contacted Chiba police on Oct 29, 2011, to alert them to the violence, following which Tsutsui was given a warning by police. Tsutsui continued to harass the girl by telephone and email and was again warned by police to leave her alone. Investigators said Tsutsui promised not to contact her again and went back to Mie.

Yamashita and his daughter visited police in person on Dec 6, 2011, to file charges against Tsutsui for assault. However, the police told him they were busy with “more urgent cases” and asked him to come back the following week. Twelve officers then went on a three-day trip to Hokkaido.

In its initial investigation into the case, Chiba prefectural police omitted references to the leisure trip but were forced to acknowledge it after local media revealed the details.

After the murders, Makoto told media that the Chiba police were unfit to call themselves an organization that protects the public. He also called Tsutsui “the worst example of humanity.”

Six lay judges and three professional judges heard the case in 2013.

Source: Japan Today, July 22, 2016


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