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…

Malaysia: Amnesty’s concerns over ‘diyat’ for death row convicts

Pahang Pardons Board plans to adopt Islamic law of “diyat” or blood money.
Pahang Pardons Board plans to adopt Islamic law of “diyat” or blood money.
Human rights body says 'diyat' inconsistent with international human rights laws and is discriminatory as it puts the poor at a disadvantage.

ETALING JAYA: Amnesty International Malaysia says it has several concerns over the Pahang Pardons Board’s plans to adopt the Islamic law of “diyat” as an alternative to granting pardons to convicts awaiting the death sentence.

AI Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said these concerns included the “diyat” not being consistent with international human rights laws, giving a private individual the power to decide on a person’s life and the “discriminatory nature” of the “diyat”, which puts the poor at a disadvantage.

“Any alternative to hanging a human being is a welcome move. However, we need to consider the roles of the pardons board and the state in deciding whether to preserve or end human life.

“Amnesty International Malaysia believes that power to end life should never lie in the hands of the state as much as it should not lie in the hands of private individuals,” she said, adding it was the discretion of state pardons boards to offer clemency.

“The former Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions had noted that the ‘diyat’ may operate inconsistently with international human rights law, in particular with the guarantees of non-discrimination and due process when the death penalty is imposed,” she said in a statement to FMT.

She said the right to seek a commutation or pardon for a condemned prisoner is a right recognised under international law as a safeguard of due process.

“When the death penalty is the mandatory punishment, as it is in our country for several offences, the clemency process becomes an urgent and critical final opportunity for a meaningful review of the circumstances of the case and of the offender, which at the moment cannot be weighed by judges at sentencing.”

Citing the case of former death row inmate Shahrul Izani Suparman for possession of cannabis, Shamini said the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah saw that Shahrul had fully repented and spared his life.

The pardons process, she added, must be a meaningful opportunity to review a case, and where the “diyat” pardon is available, it should be supplemented by a separate public system for seeking an official pardon or commutation.

Shamini also said death-row inmates from poorer backgrounds may be at a disadvantage to give their victims the compensation requested and this would strengthen the perception that the death penalty is a “lethal lottery” for certain sections of society.

Meanwhile, lawyer Faiz Fadzil said the proposal was good but required amendments to the relevant laws as the power to pardon was in the hands of a sultan or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of a state’s pardons board.

He added what was crucial was that the process must be transparent and the families of victims aren’t pressured by anyone to accept compensation.

Faiz said if a death-row inmate couldn’t afford the compensation, it would fall on the inmate’s family to pay.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Regent of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, said the Pahang Pardons Board plans to adopt the Islamic law of “diyat” as an alternative to granting pardon to convicts awaiting the death sentence.

Source: Free Malaysia Today, Mohamad Fadli, May 3, 2017

Lorry driver to hang for killing lover's husband

A lorry driver has been sentenced to death for strangling his lover's husband after the woman refused to go on with the affair 3 years ago.

Judicial Commissioner Wong Teck Meng, in handing out the sentence to Jaafar Ngamil, 45, at the High Court here, said the defence had failed to raise reasonable doubt against the prosecution's case.

Jaafar was found guilty of murdering Jamingan Hambali, 44, in a car in the vicinity of Kampung Banting in Sabak Bernam, Selangor, between 9.07pm on June 22, 2014, and 8.30am on June 23, 2014.

He was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

12 prosecution witnesses and 1 defence witness had been called to testify during the trial, which began on Jan 11 last year.

In his ruling, JC Wong said the 10th prosecution witness, who is Jaafar's nephew, testified that he was asked to drive the car while Jaafar sat in the back.

"The witness was then asked to stop near the victim's house to let him in, where he sat in the front passenger seat.

"While the vehicle was moving, the accused quarrelled with the victim and the witness saw the accused choking the victim's neck using both hands, causing the victim to struggle and finally become still.

"The forensics specialist also testified that the cause of death was due to the pressure on his neck that caused asphyxiation," he said.

Jaafar had argued in his defence that his action of choking Jamingan from behind was in response to a sudden provocation, as he was trying to protect his nephew from being beaten up.

"The accused also claimed that unpaid salary was the cause of the fight," JC Wong added. "However, the accused could have filed a civil suit against the victim.

"Also, the accused had undue advantage because he was sitting in the back while the victim was in front, making it hard for the latter to escape during the attack," he added.

JC Wong also said it was clear that Jaafar had the intention to murder Jamingan and it was not due to any provocation.

Jaafar appeared calm and kept his head bowed while the sentence was pronounced.

Earlier, in mitigation, Jaafar's counsel, who did not want to be named, said his client was a divorcee with three children and a 65-year-old mother to provide for.

He said Jaafar had no prior criminal record.

A sobbing middle-aged woman and three teenagers were seen kissing Jaafar's hand before he was led out of the courtroom.

Source: thestar.com.my, May 4, 2017

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