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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: Allahabad HC Commutes Death Penalty In Rape-Cum-Murder Case

Gallows, India
The State has failed to show that the appellant is a continuing threat to the society or he is beyond reform or rehabilitation, the Bench observed. The Allahabad High Court has commuted the death sentence awarded by a trial court for a man accused of raping and murdering a 4-year-old girl, to life imprisonment.

Upholding the conviction recorded by the trial court, the Bench comprising Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Vinod Kumar Srivastava said: "The prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt by chain of circumstances which led to only conclusion that the accused-appellant committed rape on the victim and, thereafter, she was strangulated to death by him, hence the conviction of the appellant by the trial court is perfectly justified and correct which is hereby upheld."

However, the Bench also observed that the death penalty imposed on the convict needs to be reduced to imprisonment for life, citing following the reasons: "The State has failed to show that the appellant is a continuing threat to the society or he is beyond reform or rehabilitation. Secondly, accused appellant Ranjeet was aged about 20 years, when his statement was recorded by the trial court under Section 313 CrPC on 1.6.2013. Thirdly, there is no material shown by the State or the complainant to that there was a probability that the appellant would again commit criminal acts of violence as would constitute a continuing threat to the society."

The court further observed: "In the instant case, a minor girl aged about 4 years was murdered after committing rape on her by the appellant, which is undoubtedly a grave and heinous offence for which the duty of the court is to impose adequate punishment depending upon the degree of criminality and desirability to impose such punishment, as a measure of social necessity and also as a means of deterring other potential offenders the sentence should be appropriate and befitting the crime. Having considered the principles discussed in the Bachan Singh case (Supra) as well as Rameshbhai Chandubhai Rathod (supra) and other cases of the apex court mentioned above, we are of the opinion that the present case does not fall within the category of 'rarest of rare cases' where the other option of awarding a sentence of imprisonment for life is unquestionably foreclosed. The death sentence taking into all aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the appellant's death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment to extend to the full term of life of the appellant would be sufficient and meet the ends of justice. We, therefore, reduce the sentence under Section 302 I.P.C. of death of the appellant to life imprisonment which extend to the full term of life of the appellant. The sentence imposed by the trial court on the appellant on all other counts would remain unaltered."

Source: livelaw.in, September 13, 2016

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