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…

Iran: clashes with police over public hanging. Bodies taken down by crowd.

Iran Human Rights, December 22: Two men convicted of armed robbery were hanged in public in the south Iranian city of Sirjan in Kerman province early this morning, reported the state run news agency Fars.

The men were identified as "Esmaeil Fathizadeh" and "Mohammad Esfandiarpour"

According to the report, many people among them families of the two men, who were gathered at the spot, started chanting against the authorities and threw stones at the security forces. The security forces answered with tear gas and shooting in the air. But the people managed to take away the bodies of the two men. One of the men seemed to be still alive when his body was removed by the protesting people said the report.

The security forces are trying to arrest those who where involved in the clashes according to the report.

Iran Human Rights is still investigating about today’s event in Sirjan.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights said:" Public hanging is a barbaric act that the Iranian regime uses to spread fear among the people." He added:" People of Sirjan have shown that they will no longer accept medieval punishments and a medieval regime. Today’s event in Sirjan shows that the Iranian regime is clearly weakened." He added: We are concerned about the authority’s reprisals against the people of Sirjan."

Source: Iran Human Rights, December 22, 2009

More here: Iranian crowd stops execution and frees convicts (BBC News)

BREAKING NEWS: The two men rescued from the gallows this morning have been arrested again and will be executed

Iran Human Rights, December 22: According to the state run news agency Fars, the two men who were hanged in public in Sirjan (southern Iran) early this morning, and who were rescued by the people, have been arrested in a village outside the town.

According to the report, both men who were alive, and were arrested along with several others who were involved in their rescue. Quoting Khaleghi (the chief prosecuter of Sirjan) the news agency wrote: "Both men will be hanged in public later this evening and those who helped them escape will soon be tried and punished".

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights said: "We ask the UN, the EU, the Norwegian government and the world community to act urgently against this barbaric act. We cannot tolerate such medieval actions in a country that is a full member of the UN and has diplomatic and economic relations with most of the countries." He added: We are also concerned about the faith of the others arrested in relation with the rescue of these two men today".

Source: Iran Human Rights, December 22, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Public uprising against executions in Sirjan

Iran Human Rights, December 22: Following the uprising of the people in Sirjan (see above) against the public execution of two men, several people are reported to be killed or wounded this evening.

The two men who were rescued by the people after being hanged, were arrested few hours later and were scheduled to be executed this evening at the same place.

According to reports from Sirjan, clashes between the people and the security forces forced the authorities to cancel today’s executions. Some reports from Sirjan say that the security forces started shooting at the protestors and as a result as many as five people might have been killed and about 30 wounded. Several vehicles belonging to the security forces were set on fire by the crowd.

According to these reports the two men along with those arrested charged for their rescue earlier this morning have been transferred to the prison.

Iranian authorities have not published any further reports about these events.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights has urged the international community to condemn the Iranian regime’s use of violence against the people.

Iran Human Rights is investigating further this evening’s events in Sirjan.

Two killed in bid to foil execution in Iran: report

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian police shot dead two gunmen among a group of attackers who tried to rescue two convicted bank robbers from imminent execution in a southeastern Iranian town, a news agency reported on Wednesday.

About 25 people were wounded in a shoot-out after the assailants opened fire on security forces preparing for the execution in Sirjan town, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported, citing a senior official in Kerman province.

Police returned fire and the execution of the convicts was later carried out, it said, reporting about the culmination of a series of events after family members of the two robbers earlier foiled the first attempt to put them to death.

On Tuesday, state radio said relatives started hurling stones during the execution and in the ensuing confusion "stole the bodies" of the men, who later turned out to still be alive.

The authorities tracked them down in a nearby village, Fars said, adding that five of their accomplices were also detained.

It was when the execution was due to resume later in the day that the shooting occurred. Iranian executions usually take place by hanging inside prisons, but are occasionally also carried out in public.

"Some people attacked security forces guarding the place of execution (before the arrival of the convicted robbers) ... police forces retaliated and in this clash two of the attackers were killed," Fars said.

Source: reuters.com, December 23, 2009

The two men rescued from the gallow in Sirjan were hanged last night - 14 people arrested in connection with their rescue

Thursday 24 December 2009

Iran Human Rights, December 23: The two men, who were rescued by the people from the gallows yesterday morning, were hanged last night December 22 according to the official Iranian news agencies.

Quoting Farajollah Karegar, general prosecutor of Sirjan, the state run news agency ISNA reported that the two men who were convicted of armed robbery were hanged late yesterday evening and 14 others have been arrested in connection with their escape.

Farajollah Karegar admitted that due to clashes with people the authorities’ second attempt to hang the men in public failed and they were transferred to the prison. He also said that two people were killed under the clashes and several cars belonging to the security forces were damaged. The report didn’t mention the location where the two men were hanged. But according to unverified reports they were hanged inside the prison.

"Esmaeil Fathizadeh" and "Mohammad Esfandiarpour" were sentenced to death charged with armed robbery and were scheduled to be hanged in public in Sirjan yesterday morning. But few moments after being hanged they were rescued by the people who threw stones at the security forces and shouted slogans against the Iranian regime. Few hours later both men were arrested by the security forces and their hanging was rescheduled to early evening. But due to heavy clashes between the people and the security forces they were transferred to the prison where it is believed they were hanged.

According to our sources at least 3 people were killed and more than 30 wounded, some of them seriously.

Many people have been arrested in connection to this public uprising and Iran Human Rights is concerned about their well being.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights, said: "People of Sirjan turned a public hanging into a scene of battle against the authorities. The Iranian regime cannot any longer feel safe from public protests, even at the events meant for demonstration of power".

Source (picture and story): Iran Human Rights, December 24, 2009

New details about the rescue of the 2 men from the gallows in Sirjan

The state run Iranian news agency ISCA news wrote a detailed report about the circumstances around the scheduled hanging and rescue of 2 men from the gallows on December 22. in Sirjan. According to the ISCA-news reporter who was present at the spot, more than 1,500 people were gathered at the place where the public hanging was supposed to take place. The reporter writes about the anxious people, small children, and hesitant officers.

The report says: "More than 1,500 people were gathered, their number was increasing. The gallows where set up. The prisoners were brought to the spot 45 minutes later than scheduled. They had chains on their feet, and were also chained to each other. One of them fell down. It made impression on the people who felt pity for them". The report continues:" The officers were clearly hesitant about who was supposed to put the noose around the prisoner's neck. None of them seemed to be willing and each wanted to leave it to the other. Finally someone put the noose around their neck". "The prisoners stood on top of a car, but it wasn't clear who was going to drive the car". The car started, the ground beneath them was emptied and they were hanged" "Few seconds later people started throwing stones to the authorities who didn't have any other option than to escape". It continues:" I saw a woman who approached one of those who were hanged and tried to save him. Few moments later there was no sign of the hanged prisoners, and the car that had emptied the ground beneath them was burning".

The report also says that later that day 2 people were shot dead by the authorities in the clashes that evening after the 2 men had been arrested and were supposed to be hanged in public again. According to the  reporter the men were finally hanged in the prison of Kerman.

Source: Iran Human Rights, Jan. 2, 2010

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