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…

Chinese mother of man wrongfully executed over rape and murder gets 2.7m yuan payout

Nie Shubin
Nie Shubin
The mother of a 20-year-old man who was wrongly executed for rape and murder more than two decades ago will receive about 2.7 million yuan (US$391,000 or HK$3.04 million) in compensation, including a record 1.3 million yuan for emotional damages, local media reported.

The amount is far less than the 13.9 million yuan demanded by the family of Nie Shubin.

He was taken into custody shortly after police found the body of Kang ­Juhua in Shijiazhuang in Hebei province in 1994.

Nie confessed during police questioning and was tried and executed the next year, at the age of 21. In December, the Supreme People’s Court overturned the verdict, citing a lack of evidence and questions over the authenticity of his confession.

Nie’s mother, Zhang Huanzhi, said she would not appeal against the compensation award handed down by the province’s highest court, according to Shanghai-based online news outlet ­Thepaper.cn.

The case has been widely considered one of the mainland’s most notorious wrongful executions.

Citizens and legal scholars alike said it exposed deep flaws in the criminal justice system.

More than a decade after Nie was executed by gunshot, a man arrested for another crime, Wang Shujin, confessed to killing Kang.

The lump sum paid by the government consists of 1.3 million yuan for emotional damage, 1.26 million yuan for his death and burial cost and 52,000 yuan for infringement of personal freedom. The sum also includes one-off financial aid to the victim’s mother, which amounts 64,000 yuan.

The family’s demand for financial payment in relation to the rehabilitation of their name was denied, however, as the court deemed its public apology sufficient, Thepaper.cn reported.

The compensation for emotional damage was the highest yet awarded in China to families of victims of a miscarriage of justice, the report said.

The previous record was one million yuan, which was given to the parents of another young man named Huugjilt, who was also wrongly executed for rape and murder at the age of 18.

Huugjilt was similarly convicted following a confession while in custody and executed shortly after in 1996. A serial murderer and rapist confessed years later to the crimes.

Source: South China Morning Post, March 31, 2017

Parents of man found innocent 21 years after being executed receive 2.68 million yuan in compensation

Nie Shubin's parents
Nie Shubin's parents
The parents of man who was executed 21 years ago only to be found not guilty of rape and murder late last year have been awarded 2.68 million yuan ($388,000) in compensation by the Higher People's Court in Hebei Province.

Originally, they had asked for 14 million yuan ($2 million).

The compensation included 1.3 million yuan for emotional damage caused to Nie's parents, a record high sum. It also included 1.26 million yuan for his death and burial cost, along with 52,000 yuan for infringement of personal freedom and 64,000 yuan for financial aid to Nie's mother who said that she will not appeal the court's decision.

For Nie's family, the road to vindication has been a long one. 

Last December, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) admitted that flaws in the Chinese justice system had led to the wrongful conviction of Nie, who was found guilty in 1995 of raping and murdering a Shijiazhuang woman.

The SPC overturned the conviction after finding that several legal violations had been committed during Nie's trial. They included insufficient evidence, lost documents, and a confession found to be inadmissible because it was gained through torture, along with the fact that key details like time and cause of death had not been confirmed by the prosecution.

Back in 2005, it became apparent that there was something not right about Nie's case after a man named Wang Shujin admitted to committing the crimes for which Nie was found guilty. 

Unfortunately, a special investigation into Nie's case by Liu Jinguo, who had served as head of the party's provincial Political and Legal Affairs Committee at the time, stalled when Liu was promoted to another department.

Huugjilt's parents
Huugjilt's parents
It took almost ten years of constant petitioning before Nie's parents were given another opportunity to vindicate their son. But even after the SPC assigned the case to a Shandong court for review in 2014, it wasn't until this past June that the SPC finally decided to reopen Nie's case.

The extremely long time it took for China's courts to find Nie innocent pales in comparison to the time it took them to punish him. Just a month after his conviction, 21-year-old Nie was executed.

Nie's story is strikingly similar to that of an Inner Mongolian man named Hugjiltu

Two years ago, Hugijiltu was found innocent of rape and murder charges that he was convicted of 18 years before. 

Unfortunately, just like Nie, Hugjiltu had been swiftly punished for his crime, being executed just two months after his trial. He was 18 years old at the time.

One month after Hugjiltu's conviction was overturned, his parents were awarded with state compensation -- amounting to just 2.06 million yuan.

Source: Shangaiist, Alex Linder, March 31, 2017

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