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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: Lawyers say death penalty endangers the poor

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Lawyers here expressed their objection to the re-imposition of the death penalty in the country, saying that it would endanger and a disadvantage to the poor because of the “corrupt” criminal justice system in the Philippines.

Speaking in a forum titled “Thou Shall Not Kill: A Forum on Death Penalty” held at the Ateneo De Davao University Wednesday, Atty. Arnold Abejaron, executive secretary of the Ateneo De Davao University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council, warned that the imposition of death penalty would be “dangerous.”

“We see it always in the news. We have policemen who are experts in fine arts, ibig sabihin magaling mag drawing, (good in [making up scenarios]) or nag-aral ng agriculture, ibig sabihin magaling mag planting (studied agriculture, meaning good [in planting evidence]),” Abejaron said.

Abejaron also suggested looking into preventing the crime from being committed, saying that many of those who have committed heinous crimes experienced abuses in their childhood.

“The best way really is to address the issue. How do we prevent kids or future adults from committing crimes? That is looking at how we reduce abuses in the family, because many of those who got into crimes have actually been victims of abuse when they were children,” Abejaron said.

For his part, Atty. Ray Paolo Santiago, executive director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, supported Abejaron’s claim, saying most of those who are languishing in jail are poor and could not afford to hire the best lawyers.

“This is not to say that those who come from the Public Attorney’s office are not good, they are one of the best. But imagine the public attorney who is a government lawyer, pitted against a private lawyer who is solely handling maybe a big case. And then you have a public defender who is handling hundreds of other cases. You divide the time that you can allot,” Santiago said.

Santiago also noted the corruption present in the concerned agencies which further made a poor man’s task of defending oneself in court harder.

“In the justice system, there are different levels. [For example], you have a good law enforcer, a good policeman; gathers all the evidence. And then you have a corrupt prosecutor, what would happen? You have money? Okay I will dismiss the case. Let’s not fool ourselves, because that does happen,” Santiago said.

“It is a reality that those who have lesser in life, have difficult opportunities in defending themselves,” Santiago added.

When asked about the implications of the re -imposition of the death penalty and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which the Philippines signed as a State Party in 1966, Santiago it will be up to the Supreme Court to settle the matter.

“Atty. Arnold mentioned that it’s embarrassing, particularly the implications internationally. However, we both agree that the President can actually do so,” Santiago pointed out.

“If congress insists, and then the president signs it into law, the next battle there, is not the international community, it’s going to the Supreme Court. The court will now rule whether the re imposition is valid or not under Philippine law,” Santiago said.

Source: davaotoday.com, Paulo C. Rizal, February 23, 2017

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