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…

Zimbabwe: Abolition of Death Penalty - MPs Say Their Hands Tied

World Day against Death Penalty
LEGISLATORS have said their hands are tied over abolition of death penalty in Zimbabwe, saying scrapping the sentence rests more with the executive and political party leaders than Parliament.

Speaking during commemorations of the World Day against Death Penalty this Monday, legislators from the parliamentary parties - MDC-T and Zanu PF - said the laws of the country give their superiors control over what MPs do in the August House.

MDC-T legislator Jessie Majome, who also chairs Parliament's Legal committee, said the whipping system compromises their role.

"Our parliament is an arena of party politics. That's the way it is. We take positions in parliament according to what our party decides or doesn't decide.

"I come from a party that has a minority in Parliament therefore I couldn't master enough support when I challenged the death penalty in the house," she said.

Fortune Chasi of Zanu PF concurred, saying MPs could only deliberate and pass such laws with the blessing of the executive.

"The Zimbabwean parliament reacts to what the executive brings before it," he said.

The MPs were responding to advocate Fadzai Mahere who had accused the legislature of dragging its feet on aligning the Criminal Procedure, Evidence Act with the section 48 of constitution which guarantees the right to life.

The constitution now limits the death penalty to cases of aggravated murder while exempting women and only men below 21 and above 70 years.

The death penalty is being challenged on the basis that it is irreversible, colonial, lacks evidence of deterring others from similar crimes while innocent people have been executed in the past.

117 prisoners on death row

Official statistics show that there are at least 117 convicted inmates on the death row in Zimbabwe although legislative watchdog Veritas claims the total could be double the figure.

The opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) joined other parties in calling for the immediate abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe, saying it was in breach of the country's Constitution, which guarantees and protects the right to life for every citizen.

"They are living a life without hope, alienation and vilification and the prison for them has become a prison within a prison.

"Some of these condemned prisoners are having mental health challenges or are terminally ill," said the party in a statement this Monday.

Zimbabwe has an unofficial moratorium on the penalty since 2005 but executions can begin anytime as government recently announced that it was looking to recruit a hangman.

Veritas director, Val Ingham-Thorpe, said suspending executions instead of abolition of the death penalty is torturous on the death row inmates. She said her organisation would soon launch a constitutional challenge over the issue.

"Prisoners are not told in advance when they are to be executed," she said.

"Every morning when the warders enter the cell block each prisoner listens to their footsteps in terror in case they stop outside their cell to take them for execution. Think of suffering that kind of torture for 20 years."

Prison conditions in Zimbabwe, according to human rights activists, are deplorable, thereby adding to the torture of death row inmates.

About 102 countries in the world have abolished the death sentence on all crimes while 58 countries have retained it.

Lesotho, Botswana and DRC are the three SADC countries currently executing people on death row.

Source: allafrica.com, October 11, 2016

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