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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…

Taiwan carries out 1st execution in 2 years amid anti-death penalty pleas

Lee Hung-chi
Taiwan executed a death-row inmate on Friday, the 1st execution carried out under President Tsai Ing-wen's government and despite ongoing calls from rights groups to abolish the death penalty.

Lee Hung-chi was executed at a jail in southern Kaohsiung city Friday afternoon by firing squad, according to the justice ministry, for killing his ex-wife and 5-year-old daughter in 2014.

Lee stabbed his ex-wife to death outside the kindergarten their 2 daughters attended and then took 1 of the girls to his car, where he attempted to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lee survived after they were rescued but the girl died 2 months later despite treatment.

"His actions were brutal and ruthless ... and inflicted irreparable harms to the victims' families," deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang told reporters, adding that the court had ruled there was no likelihood of Lee reforming.

Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a 5-year hiatus, with the death penalty reserved for the most serious crimes such as aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Some politicians and rights groups have called for its abolition, but various opinion surveys show majority support for the death penalty.

RELATEDTaiwan: Human rights groups condemn political use of capital punishment

Chen said the government was gradually decreasing its use, but would not abolish it for now.

"Abolishing death sentence is an international trend and a long-term goal for the justice ministry ... but there is no consensus in our country," Chen said.

There are currently 42 prisoners on death row in Taiwan.

Lee's execution was the 1st since a former college student was put to death in May 2016 for killing 4 people in a random stabbing spree on a subway that shocked the generally peaceful island.

In 2012 the murder of a young boy in a playground reignited the debate over the death penalty after the suspect reportedly said he was anticipating free board and lodging in jail and would get a life sentence at most even if he were to kill 2 or 3 people.

Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net, August 31, 2018


Taiwan executes convict on president's birthday


Murderer was 1st convict to be executed since president took office in May 2016

A man who stabbed his former wife to death outside a school and caused the death of a 6-year-old daughter became the 1st death row convict to be executed since President Tsai Ing-wen came to office in May 2016.

Even though Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party includes several prominent opponents of capital punishment, the practice still receives overwhelming support from the public according to opinion polls.

Lee Hung-chi, 39, was shot Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Justice said. It added he formed a serious threat to law and order and showed no possibility of remorse.

Before the murder, he had already spent 11 months in prison for violating a restraining order and trying to kill both his daughters and commit suicide.

In April 2014, he first stabbed his ex-wife to death and then abducted 1 of their 2 daughters from the school.

Having driven to a mountainous area, he drugged the girl and burned charcoal inside the car in order to cause both of their deaths, according to the Apple Daily. He survived, but the girl died 2 months later, the Central News Agency reported.

The Kaohsiung District Court sentenced him to life in prison, a combination of a 15-year jail term for killing his wife and life for the death of their daughter.

However, the Taiwan High Court changed the sentences to life for the death of his ex-wife and capital punishment for the death of the girl. In 2016, the Supreme Court confirmed the verdict, making it the 1st death sentence issued since Tsai was sworn in as president.

The Ministry of Justice said the order for Lee's execution was signed on Thursday, and rejected reporters' questions about a link with the fact that the president was marking her 62nd birthday Friday.

Taiwan's most recent execution until now occurred just days before Tsai took over, when student Cheng Chieh was shot for killing 4 people on a Taipei Mass Rapid Transit train.

With Lee's death, there were reportedly still 42 convicts on death row in Taiwan.

Source: Taiwan News, August 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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