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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…

Malaysia to scrap mandatory death sentence for drug offences

Government agrees to give courts discretion in imposing death penalty for narcotics offences.

The Malaysian government has agreed to do away with the mandatory death sentence imposed for drug offences.

Azalina Othman Said, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, told Parliament that the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 will be amended to allow judges to exercise discretion when deciding on the appropriate sentence.

The decision was taken by the Cabinet after considering a report on the review of the act and the death penalty. The Attorney-General, Mohamed Apandi Ali, had also presented a case in favour of granting judges discretionary powers to the cabinet on 1 March.

Malay Mail said that Apandi, a former judge himself, had previously stated that he had sought discretionary powers for judges, especially in marginal cases where offenders could instead be handed jail sentences. This was aimed at cases where convicts were coerced or duped into becoming drug mules.

"The cabinet agreed to include additional provisions to empower the court when sentencing other than the mandatory death penalty under certain situations in drug trafficking under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act," she told Parliament on Thursday (23 March).

Malaysia is still maintaining the death penalty for other serious offences like murder and firearms offences.

"Other countries, including the United States, China, India, Singapore and Thailand still maintain the death penalty as the punishment for serious offences," she said.

The solicitor-general has been directed to speed up the draft amendments to be tabled for approval in Parliament, Azalina added.

When asked whether the government would place a moratorium on pending drug cases until the act was amended, the minister said the issue was still at an early stage and that there were still several processes to go through.

According to the Prison Department statistics, there are almost 800 prisoners on death row for drug trafficking offences under Section 39 (B) of the Act.

Source: IBT, Rachel Middleton, March 24, 2017

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