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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…

'Alarming' executions in Vietnam: Amnesty

Secrecy around executions continues to plague some Southeast Asian countries, with newly released figures showing the "disturbing" use of the death penalty in Vietnam, Amnesty International says.

At least 1032 people were executed worldwide in 2016, while at least 3117 were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International's global report released on Tuesday.

The figures, while alarming, are considerably less than the reality because they exclude the thousands of executions believed to have taken place in China.

This secrecy continues to plague some countries in Southeast Asia.

Like China, Amnesty says Vietnam continues to classify figures on the death penalty as state secrets.

However, according to the report, new information obtained this year reveal executions have been carried out at a higher rate than previously understood.

In February 2017, Vietnam media reported statistics by the ministry of public security showing 429 people had been executed between August 2013 and June 2016, at an average rate of 147 executions a year.

"(This) placed Vietnam over a 3-year period as effectively the 3rd-biggest executioner in the world," Amnesty International's deputy director of global issues, James Lynch, told AAP, putting it behind China and Iran.

The figures raise as many questions as they answer - with no context provided as to what people were executed for, when they took place or the details of their cases' legal proceedings.

"Secrecy is a huge concern, not only Vietnam but also Malaysia ... when new information comes to light it is disturbing, the number of executions were higher again than people had expected. The size of death row was higher than expected," Mr Lynch said.

"There needs to be a much more structured program of transparency about the imposition of the death penalty to allow for a more informed debate."

Also of concern in the region were calls by the Philippines government to reintroduce the death penalty as a measure to tackle crime and threats to national security.

It's a step backward for Southeast Asia, where the Philippines has been a key abolitionist.

Source: The Weekly Times, April 11, 2017

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