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Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

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Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

As Singapore clinging stubbornly onto old ways, Malaysia progresses with review of its draconian laws

Death penalty for drug traffickers in Singapore
As Malaysia takes the progressive approach of reviewing the suitability of some of its laws, Singapore holds on tight to its old ways despite many voicing that these laws are too oppressive or redundant in the face of other existing legislation.

One of these laws facing the axe across the causeway is the draconian Sedition Act 1948. As you can see from the date of this Act, it is high time this piece of legislation is reviewed. We are now in 2018, a far cry from post war 1948. In large part, this act was devised to deal with the upsurge of communism. Now that communism is no longer a viable threat, it follows to say that the necessity of the act is similarly no longer viable.

From the Singaporean context, we too have this dreaded act – this act along with the infamous Internal Securities Act (ISA) – has been used to silence all matter of behaviour deemed undesirable by the powers be. Victims have included cartoonist, Leslie Chew and the many individuals who were arrested and detained without trial in Operations Spectrum and Coldstore.

In many ways, events have played out to vindicate the victims of these draconian laws somewhat. Films, articles and books have been written in support of Singaporeans such as Teo Soh Lung, Tan Wah Piow and many more. Yet, the years they have lost incarcerated without charge can never be replaced. Nor can the emotional and mental anguish ever be erased. What has Operation Coldstore or Operation Spectrum ever really achieved apart from creating a needless climate of fear? Has it been shown that these two operations contributed to the economic success of Singapore? If not, what has it been for but to ensure that the ruling party is never questioned?

It's not too late for Singapore to also take a fresh look at its statute books. Singaporeans are taking a keen interest in development across the causeway and like it or not, there will be comparisons. Does Singapore want to come out favourably in this comparison? If so, please review this piece of outdated legislation instead of clinging stubbornly onto old ways.

What about the issue of "fake news"? As Singapore takes steps to close ranks on alternative news sites struggling to stay afloat, Malaysia has taken on a liberal stance as it moves to abolish the "fake news" act. Anwar has also publicly called for the press to scrutinise government.

Will Singapore continue in its high handed approach towards members of the academia deemed too outspoken?

What of the mandatory death penalty? There have long been objections to the liberal use of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore. Quite a few cases have captured the public imagination in recent years. One fortunate Yong Vui Kong was granted a reprieve while many others before and after him have lost their battle with the noose on the flawed argument that the death penalty prevents crime*.

Is there really widespread support in Singapore for the death penalty? The government states this as the case but short of a public fact-finding exercise, we will never know. Is it not high time for review?

The law is never static and if it comes to a point where certain laws, no longer serve us, it is no shame to repeal. This, my friend, is progress.

Will we progress? Can we progress? I suppose it is anyone's guess. I know that Malaysia is taking its own steps to progress.

Source: The Online Citizen, Ghui, May 31, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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