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 could go down as world's new top executioner' - Atienza

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
"The real problem is clearly corruption," says Rep. Lito Atienza
The wish of President Rodrigo Duterte to execute 5 to 6 convicts daily would plunge the country into the dark ages of "savagery" and make the country a top executioner, a pro-life solon said. 

In a statement, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said the President's wish to have 5 to 6 criminals put to death every day, or more than 2,000 every year, under the death penalty would put the country into "an unprecedented era of darkness and medieval savagery."

Atienza said daily executions would make the predominantly Catholic country the world's top executioner, worse that non-Catholic countries such as China, Iran and Pakistan.

"If the President had his way, our predominantly Catholic country could go down as the world's new top executioner, ahead of non-Catholic countries such as China, Iran and Pakistan," Atienza said.

Last month, Duterte said there would be daily executions of drug convicts once death penalty is restored.

"Restore it and I will execute criminals every day - 5 or 6. That's for real," Duterte said.

Atienza said moves in Congress to restore death penalty are an "anathema to our celebration of life."

"We Filipinos celebrate life. In fact, we celebrate life so much that despite our usual troubles, we've been persistently rated among the happiest people in the world," Atienza said.

Atienza said it is bad enough that even without the death penalty, the country is hounded with a spate of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug criminals at the height of the administration's bloody war on drugs.

"We do not want to be brutalized by constant bloodshed. We Filipinos loathe killings, whether judicial or extrajudicial, as much as we detest violent crime," Atienza said.

"It is bad enough we already have a virtual death penalty in place, with the unabated summary executions of alleged suspects sans the benefit of a full and fair trial," he added.

Atienza said the real problem is rampant corruption in the criminal justice system, as revealed in a House inquiry on the Bilibid drug trade and the millions of alleged kickbacks for Bureau of Correction officials.

"The real problem is clearly corruption. The problem is not with the severity of the punishment for crime. In fact, corruption is the primary reason why many felons are not getting caught, and not getting punished, and this in turn has only abetted even more crime," Atienza said.

The bill is expected to undergo plenary debates under second reading once Congress resumes from its Christmas break on Jan. 16.

The bill hurdled the justice committee on Dec. 7.

The bill seeks to impose death penalty for more than 20 heinous offenses, such as rape with homicide, kidnapping for ransom, and arson with death.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte's staunch ally in Congress, filed the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty after former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.

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

"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 won the elections on a campaign promise to restore death penalty.

Alvarez said Congress would look into the cheapest way of carrying out the death penalty, either by firing squad, lethal injection or by hanging.

Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net, January 3, 2017

Philippines: Pro-life coalition formed vs death penalty revival

Pro-life advocates have formed a coalition to oppose moves by the House of Representatives to revive capital punishment in line with President Duterte's tough stance against criminality, opposition lawmakers bared yesterday.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said there has been a "widening coalition of legislators, religious ministers both from the Catholic Church and other religious denominations, civil society and NGO networks, and college students and youth" opposing the reimposition of the death penalty.

"The broad coalition of anti-death penalty advocates will sustain the campaign against the proposed reimposition of capital punishment until the archaic proposal is finally consigned to the legislative dustbin," he said.

Lagman stressed that death penalty is not a solution to criminality and the drug menace.

"The prevention of heinous crimes involves a complex and multidimensional process relative to problems ranging from poverty and inequity to police corruption and brutality, inept and discriminatory prosecution, and flawed judicial system," he explained.

Summary and drugs-related killings in the Philippines
"It is bad enough we already have a virtual death penalty in place, with unabated
summary executions of alleged suspects sans the benefit of a full and fair trial."
"All of these negative factors contribute to the fallibility of human justice, which ensnare to the gallows even the innocent. Consequently, punishment alone is not the solution to crimes," he added.

Another opposition legislator, Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list, also hit Duterte's plan to execute through lethal injection 5 to 6 convicts a day.

"It will sink the Philippines into an unprecedented era of darkness and medieval savagery. If the President had his way, our predominantly Catholic country could go down as the world's new top executioner, ahead of non-Catholic countries such as China, Iran and Pakistan," Atienza said.

Duterte's execution plan means that more than 2,000 will be undergoing state-sanctioned killings per year. Compare this to the 1,634 convicts executed in 25 countries around the world in 2015 recorded by Amnesty International (AI).

Excluding China, only 3 countries - Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - were responsible for nearly 90 % of the executions.

Iran executed 977 convicts by hanging in 2015, Pakistan put 326 to death by hanging, while Saudi Arabia killed 158 by beheading. The number of executions in China is regarded a state secret.

Source: Philippine Star, January 3, 2017

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