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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: Hoshiarpur boy's 2 killers to be hanged on October 25

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The parents of Hoshiarpur boy Abhi Verma, who was kidnapped and murdered for ransom at 16 in February 2005, have welcomed the orders to execute convicts Vikram Walia and Jasvir Singh in the wake of the President's rejecting their mercy petition.

Ravi Verma and his wife, Anita, are relieved that a long legal battle has come good. "Justice will prevail after almost 12 years," said Ravi Verma. "The execution of the convicts will not bring our child back but it will deter those who play with the lives of others."

Walia and Jasvir Singh will be hanged in Patiala jail at 9am on October 25. The 2 along with Jasvir's wife, Sonia, had kidnapped Abhi, a Class 9 student of DAV School here, and killed him with an overdose of anaesthesia. Walia and Jasvir Singh were then in their early twenties. Walia lived in Model Town here and Jasvir at his aunt's in Milap Nagar, the house where they kept the boy.

Mastermind Walia was known to goldsmith Ravi Verma. After kidnapping Verma's son, he even went to his house with Jasvir, and offered fake sympathies. Even after killing the boy, they continued to demand '50 lakh ransom from his family.

Sonia, Abhi's former tutor, was involved in everything from the kidnapping and intoxication of the boy to the destruction of evidence. They dumped the body in a field in Jalandhar district, from where it was recovered on the disclosure statement of Jasvir.

On December 21, 2006, the district and sessions judge gave death penalty to all 3. On May 30, 2008, the high court upheld the sentence. In January 2010, the Supreme Court commuted only Sonia's sentence to life imprisonment.

To prolong the trial, Walia and Jasvir challenged capital punishment awarded under Section 364-A (kidnapping for ransom) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) but, in August 2015, a 3-member Supreme Court bench headed by justice TS Thakur dismissed that appeal. Jasvir and Sonia sought conjugal rights from the court to bear a child but that, too, was declined. Walia and Jasvir filed a mercy petition with the President, which he turned down this August.

Issuing death warrants, the Hoshiarpur district and sessions judge has ordered the Patiala Central Jail superintendent to make necessary arrangements for the execution. His legal aid, Maninder Pal Singh, said that the convicts had exhausted all their legal means and their hanging was imminent.

Source: Hindustan Times, October 4, 2016

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