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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…

India: Two Kerala cops get death penalty, others jail, over Udayakumar custodial death

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K Jithakumar and SV Sreekumar, both civil police officers, have received the highest punishment of the land. A fine of Rs 2 lakh each have been imposed on the duo.

A special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram Wednesday awarded the death penalty to two officers of the Kerala Police for the custodial torture and eventual death of Udayakumar, a 27-year-old youth way back in 2005.

K Jithakumar and SV Sreekumar, both civil police officers, have received the highest punishment of the land. A fine of Rs 2 lakh each have been imposed on the duo.

Two other accused, EK Sabu and T Ajithkumar, have been given punishment of six years imprisonment for abetment of crime and destruction. TK Haridas,. Another guilty officer was given 3 years imprisonment.

Prabhavati, Udayakumar’s aged mother who pursued the case relentlessly for more than a decade, broke down in front of the media after the verdict. She told reporters, “God has finally answered my prayers. No police officer should dare to torture anyone like this under the garb of their uniform. I pray to God that no son should ever have to undergo such brutal torture at the hands of the police.”

Udayakumar, 27, and his friend Suresh were picked up by officers of the Fort Police station in Thiruvananthapuram on September 27, 2005 from the Sreekandeshwaram Park in the city on charge of theft. Money amounting to Rs 4500, found in the possession of Udayakumar, was seen as grounds for the duo to be taken into custody. Two constables then tortured Udayakumar to force a confession out of him, beating him mercilessly with cane sticks on his legs and later rolling down a heavy iron pipe down his thighs. This act of third degree torture by the Kerala Police later came to be known as ‘urutti kola (rolling murder) in the local media.

The killing of Udayakumar in custody had created a huge furore in the state unleashing a wave of public protests against the police force and the then-Congress government in power. The eventual trial took years to begin after serious lapses on the part of the police force which initiated the investigation. Later, the CBI took over the case. There were several twists and turns in the case such as fabrication of evidence and witnesses turning hostile in the course of the trial.

On Tuesday, CBI court judge J Nasser had pronounced six officers guilty in connection with Udayakumar’s custodial death. While five of them have been awarded the punishment today, one officer, Soman, passed away during trial.

Source: indianexpress.com, author, July, 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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