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

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…

Another prisoner executed in Belarus

Alyaksandr Zhylnikau and Vyachaslau Sukharka
Alyaksandr Zhylnikau, a convict under a sentence of death for murders, was executed, his family told human rights defender Andrey Paluda.

On June 13, his defense lawyer was informed that the prisoner ‘had departed to serve his sentence’, HRC Viasna reports. When she asked whether Zhylnikau had been executed, prison officials confirmed it.

In December 2015, Vyachaslau Sukharko and Alyaksandr Zhylnikau were found guilty of murdering three people. 

One more defendant in the case, Alina Shulhanava, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Sawmill workers Sukharko and Zhylnikau were accused of murdering three people, robbery and stealing documents. 

Alina Shulhanava, a nursery school teacher and former employee at the state-controlled youth organization BRSM, was charged with the organisation of causing a grievous bodily harm, which resulted in death, and preparation for abducting a person.

The charges stem from two episodes that took place in December 2015 in Minsk. 27-year Alina Shulhanava failed to come to terms with the fact that her ex-boyfriend was dating another woman. 

Shulhanava hired Vyachaslau Sukharko and Alyaksandr Zhylnikau to threaten and beat the couple. However, the perpetrators went a bridge too far and killed them both. 

Immediately after their arrest, it became known that Sukharko and Zhylnikau were involved in another murder in the town of Kalodzishchy near Minsk. 

A 59-year-old man who let an apartment to one of the defendants turned out to be another victim.

In March 2017, the Minsk City Court sentenced the two men to life imprisonment. However, on July 14, the Supreme Court sent the case for retrial. 

In January 2018, they were sentenced to death.

The fate of Vyachaslau Sukharko is unknown at the moment. However, the record shows that the sentences passed on the defendants in the same case are carried out at the same point of time.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe that still applies capital punishment. 

The West has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to join a global moratorium as a first step towards the abolition of death penalty.

The exact number of executions in Belarus is unknown, but local human rights defenders and journalists have worked tirelessly to uncover some information about death sentences and executions. 

According to the Ministry of Justice of Belarus, 245 people were sentenced to death from 1994 to 2014. 

Human rights NGOs believe that around 400 people have been executed since the country gained its independence in 1991; president Alyaksandr Lukashenka granted a pardon to only one convict.

Source: belsat.eu, Staff, June 13, 2019

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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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