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…

Vui Kong's story now in theatre

PETALING JAYA: The story of condemned drug mule Yong Vui Kong will be made into a stage play. Entitled “Banduan Akhir di Sel Akhir” (The Last Prisoner in the Last Cell), the 50-minute production will be based on Yong's life story.

Directed by Shahili Abdan (popularly known as Nam Ron), Banduan will star local actor Xavier Fong as Yong, and feature the likes of Tuan “Tapai” Faisal and Dira Abu Zahar.

Commissioned by Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM), the play will be in Bahasa Malaysia, but will have English subtitles.

"This is a chance for us to show something serious in a creative way, and bring a big impact to society," said Moizzis R Cong, Banduan's scriptwriter.

A firm opponent against the death penalty, Cong believes that capital punishment does not deter crime but makes it worse.

"We had planned to do a play about the death penalty for a long time," he added.

When asked why Yong's story was chosen as the basis for the play, Nora Murat, AIM's executive director, said that they were looking for a story where everyone could relate to.

The play's executive producer, Faisal Mustaffa, agreed. "(Vui Kong's) story is not only a story, but also a drama," he said.

"It's (also a story) about poverty, how it affects people and how the system responds to them," Mustaffa added.

Easy money

A product of a broken home, Yong's parents separated when he was a toddler, leaving him to be raised by his mother. Dropping out of school, he soon started a short life in crime by selling pirated VCDs.

Spurred on by his mother's worsening health, he volunteered to become a drug mule after being told that it would bring him easy money.

On June 13, 2007, the Sabahan was caught with 47gm of heroin by the Singaporean authorities. He was subsequently sentenced to death for drug trafficking in the island state.

He was only 18 at the time.

Converting to Buddhism during his stay in prison, Yong has since appealed to Singapore President SR Nathan for clemency.

Originally scheduled for a clemency hearing on Aug 26, this year, his appeal has been extended to Jan 17, 2011.

A petition drive calling for Yong to be spared the death penalty is currently ongoing, and has since collected over 130,000 signatures. It also saw support from Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali and DAP strongman Karpal Singh.

Banduan will open for five nights from Oct 10 at the Black Box Theatre in Solaris, Mont Kiara. It will also be shown in a Penang location on Dec 10 this year.

Tickets can be obtained with a minimum RM10 donation to AIM. For more information, visit the website at rumahanakteater.blogspot.com , or contact Aisling or Davina at 03-7955268 (or email at amenstydptheatre@gmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Source: Free Malaysia Today, September 25, 2010

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