Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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: Stalker who killed woman in Mumbai acid attack gets death penalty

A special Mumbai court sentenced on Thursday a 25-year-old man to death for hurling acid at a woman, which resulted in her death 3 years ago.

Delhi resident Ankur Panwar followed his neighbour from the Capital, 23-year-old Preeti Rathi, to Mumbai and attacked her outside the Bandra Terminus on May 2, 2013.

It was her 1st day in the western Indian city, where she was supposed to join work as a nurse. 

Panwar attacked Rathi for declining his marriage proposal. 

She died of multiple organ failure a month later.

Rathi's brother, Hitesh, attacked Panwar soon after the verdict was announced.

Special women's court judge AS Shende on Tuesday had found Panwar guilty of Rathi's murder for throwing sulphuric acid on Rathi.

The prosecution had demanded capital punishment for the convict, describing the act as gruesome, merciless and pre-planned.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 8, 2016

'Reformed' convict impresses judges

His is a textbook case of what convicts should do and not do, says the Bench

Engineer P. Veera Bharathi, 45, convicted for raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl in Virudhunagar district in 1999 and imposed with death penalty which was commuted to life imprisonment a year later, impressed two judges of the Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday with his persuasive arguing skills, legal knowledge, educational qualifications, and good conduct.

Justices S. Nagamuthu and M.V. Muralidharan appreciated the convict who had come to the court with armed escorts to challenge State Government's refusal to release him from prison even after completing 14 years of incarceration, for having acquired several postgraduate degrees, including a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the prison besides serving as a teacher to other inmates.

The judges learnt from the convict that his wife was a professor in a private college and she was taking care of their only son born just months before his imprisonment 16 years ago.

"Yours could be a textbook case on reformation of prisoners who should be brought to the mainstream fully. We are very happy that you are aware of many judgments which most of the junior lawyers of this court may not know. Your life should be a lesson for people on what they should not do and what they should do after being punished for what they should not have done," the senior judge, Mr. Justice Nagamuthu said.

Pointing out that his plea for premature release had now become a complicated question of law in view of a recent decision of the Supreme Court that life sentence should mean a punishment for life and not just 14 years, the judges said they would prefer the State Public Prosecutor R. Rajarathinam to argue against him to help them take a right decision on the issue. "Tomorrow, we shall fix a date for final hearing after ascertaining the availability of the State PP. You come and argue your case on that day," the judges told the convict after dispensing with his appearance on Thursday.

Bharathi's conviction was confirmed by the High Court as well as the Supreme Court in 2000 and the latter also dismissed a review application preferred by him in 2002. His subsequent efforts to prove his "innocence" by filing petition after petition in the court to subject him to narco analysis, brain mapping, and lie-detector tests also turned futile.

He gave up attempts to prove his "innocence" and sought to release him along with 1,405 convicts released prematurely in view of the former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai's birth centenary in 2008. That plea was also turned down by the State Government by stating that those who had been imposed with death penalty by trial courts were not eligible for such early release.

A series of cases filed by him against the government's decision ended up being dismissed.

Source: The Hindu, September 8, 2016

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