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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…

Chilling Tale in Duterte’s Drug War: Father and Son Killed in Police Custody

Philippine police officers
MANILA — Even amid the slaughter of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, the killings of Renato and Jaypee Bertes stand out.

The Bertes men, father and son, shared a tiny, concrete room with six other people in a metropolitan Manila slum, working odd jobs when they could find them. Both smoked shabu, a cheap form of methamphetamine that has become a scourge in the Philippines. Sometimes Jaypee Bertes sold it in small amounts, relatives said.

So it was unsurprising when the police raided their room last month.

They were arrested and taken to a police station where, investigators say, they were severely beaten, then shot to death.

The police said the two had tried to escape by seizing an officer’s gun. But a forensic examination found that the men had been incapacitated by the beatings before they were shot; Jaypee Bertes had a broken right arm.

“There is no justification at all,” said Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, a member of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, an independent government body that investigated the case. “How can you shoot someone who is already in your custody?”

The two men are among more than 800 people who have been killed by police officers and vigilantes since the May election of Mr. Duterte, who has repeatedly called for killing drug dealers and users. Most have been killed by police officers, in encounters the police characterize as confrontations or self-defense. More than 200 have been attributed to vigilantes, who often leave cardboard signs declaring their victims to be drug pushers.

Mr. Duterte has not commented on the case, which has been widely reported in the local news media. In a speech on Wednesday, he said that the police should not use excessive force, but he showed no sign of backing down from his call to kill drug suspects.

“The fight against drugs will continue unrelenting until we have destroyed the apparatus operating in the entire country,” he said.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The New York Times, Richard C. Paddock, August 19, 2016
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