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…

Philippines: House starts debate on death penalty bill

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte
The House of Representatives sub-committee on judicial reforms on Wednesday tackled the bill on death penalty amid the administration's push to revive capital punishment as a deterrent to crime.

The subcommittee under the House justice committee tackled the seven bills restoring death penalty, including the principal bill filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez under House Bill 1, which seeks to repeal the law abolishing death penalty.

Subcommittee chairperson Leyte Rep. Vicente "Ching" Veloso, a former Court of Appeals justice, in an interview said he personally supported the restoration of death penalty as an effective deterrent to crime.

Veloso however denied that Alvarez gave the marching orders for the committee to railroad the bill.

Alvarez earlier vowed that the restoration of death penalty would be approved before the December break.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption President Dante Jimenez maintained that previous administrations only failed to ensure that death penalty is a deterrent to crime.

"The argument that it is not a deterrent to crime is misleading. The factor of death penalty is clear in history, even martial years and during Marcos years, and in drug trafficking due to capital punishment, when drug lords are publicly executed, sending a chilling signal to hardened criminals and offenders to keep off from illegal activities," Jimenez said.

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who was among the lawmakers who pushed for the abolition of death penalty in 2006, became irked when Jimenez gave an unresponsive answer to a question.

When Lagman asked Jimenez if he knows that death penalty has been in place since the dawn of civilization, Jimenez answered: "I don't know, I was born in 1952."

"I will not further question this witness for that kind of answer," Lagman said.

After being reprimanded by the committee, Jimenez said he was only answering candidly the question of Lagman.

He appealed that the committee understand his position on death penalty, citing the death of his brother by drug syndicates in 1990 supposedly due to mistaken identity.

"If I offended the congressman, I'm sorry, and I hope you will understand my position here," Jimenez said.

The committee called for an adjournment after Lagman gave a silent treatment to Jimenez.

"I only understand the position of resource person if he answers responsively," Lagman said, before the hearing adjourned until next week Tuesday.

It was Speaker Alvarez who first filed the bill seeking to reimpose death penalty after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.

Alvarez filed the bill to reinstate death penalty, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promise of returning capital punishment against heinous criminals.

Alvarez's bill sought to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.

In the bill he co-authored with deputy speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose death penalty because "the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts."

"Philippine society is left with no option but to deal with certain grievous offenders in a manner commensurate to the gravity, perversity, atrociousness and repugnance of their crimes," according to the bill.

Duterte had won the elections in a campaign promise to restore death penalty by hanging, even making a snide remark that the convicts' head should be severed from the hanging. Alvarez said Congress would look into the cheapest way for death penalty, either by firing squad, lethal injection, or by hanging.

Source: Philippine Inquirer, November 9, 2016

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