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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…

Philippines: Debates on death penalty begin next week

Proponents and opponents of the bill restoring the death penalty are poised to begin their showdown on the House plenary floor next week.

"We expect that the fireworks on this revival of capital punishment will commence on Tuesday or Wednesday next week," said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, leader of the "Magnificent 7" independent minority bloc.

He said he was told by Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas of the change in schedule. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier announced the plenary debates would begin this week.

At a press briefing, Lagman reiterated his call on the House leadership "not to insist on a party or a pressure vote."

No justification


"House members should be allowed to freely exercise their conscience and conviction in voting on the measure," he said.

Lagman said he wished to dispel the impression that the 1987 Constitution prescribed the death penalty. "On the contrary, it prohibits it," he said.

"As of now the proponents have failed to make any justification on the death penalty. They are citing that incidents of crime have risen in recent years. That is incorrect. PNP (Philippine National Police) data show there is a decreasing incidence, except for murder," he said.

Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin also called for a stop to "misinformation," especially among rookie lawmakers.

"Some are saying that if you're a member of the justice committee, you can't interpellate. If you're a member of the rules, you can't interpellate. This kind of misinformation is a kind of pressure on members not to speak out against the death penalty," he said.

Party vote


Last week, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he was "very confident" that the measure would pass because of the strength of the President Duterte-controlled supermajority in the House.

Alvarez, a bosom buddy of Mr. Duterte, assured his colleagues that there would be no consequences for not supporting the bill, although he did not give a clear answer when asked if he would call for a "party vote" and apply pressure on supermajority members to take a collective stand.

In December, the House justice committee approved by a 12-6-1 vote a substitute bill allowing the return of capital punishment for heinous crimes and sent the measure to the plenary for second and third reading.

Under the proposed "Death Penalty Law," the penalty of death by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection shall be imposed on 21 major offenses, including treason, qualified piracy, murder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, plunder and dangerous drug offenses.

Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net, January 25, 2017


French ambassador urges PH lawmakers not to restore death penalty


President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte
The Ambassador of France to the Philippines on Tuesday said he is hoping that the death penalty will not be restored in the country.

Ambassador Thierry Mathou told INQUIRER.net that he has spoken to some legislators about the proposed death penalty bill in Congress.

"France has been advocating the abolition (of death penalty) everywhere in the world ... even in the US," he explained at the sidelines of the PhilFrance launch, which marks the 70th year of Philippine-France diplomatic relations.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly expressed interest in restoring death penalty for heinous crimes.

A bill in Congress is set to be tackled in plenary next week.

"We try to express our view very freely with our partners in the Congress...in the administration," Mathou said. "We hope to be convincing."

"I am meeting the different members of Congress...of the Senate," he said, declining to give names.

However, Mathou said that "it will be up to democracy" to determine if the legislation will pass.

He said talking with the legislators was a "demonstration of a real democracy" as some expressed opposition while others showed support.

"I feel that we have a very tense debate at the Senate," he said.

Mathou said France believes that death penalty is "not efficient."

The United Nations wrote to Congress last year warning against the reimposition of death penalty. It said the Philippines will violate an international agreement by restoring the death penalty.

It also pointed out that research shows that there is "no reliable evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime." It has also led to wrongful killing of innocent people, especially the poor, the UN said.

Asked what will happen to the 2 countries' relations if the Philippines reinstates the death penalty, Mathou said that diplomats do not respond to hypothetical situations.

"At the moment we are involved in advocacy and we will see," he said, adding that he is confident that the relations between Europe and the Philippines will remain "very strong."

Summary killings


Mathou was more careful when asked about the summary killings linked to the Philippine government's anti-illegal drug campaign. 

More than 6,000 people have been reportedly killed in police shootouts and by so-called vigilante groups. Many are drug suspects while some are innocent bystanders.

"Of course we are concerned and we have expressed our concern," the ambassador said.

He said it is not their intention to interfere. Instead, he said France is expressing its concern because as friends, the 2 nations "can talk of anything."

Mathou did not give details but he said they have already discussed the issue with different agencies and stakeholders.

"It's an ongoing discussion. This is not only at the bilateral level. It is also in the EU (European Union) level," he said.

Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net, January 25, 2017

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