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…

Family of death row inmate Cheong Chun Yin to submit clemency plea tomorrow

Cheong Chun Yin
The family of a Malaysian death row inmate in Singapore said they would submit a clemency plea to Singapore president SR Nathan on Wednesday in another attempt to seek for a sentence reduction.

The 28-year-old Cheong Chun Yin was convicted of trafficking 7. 7 grams of diamorphine into Singapore in 2008.

The Singaporean court sentenced him to death last February and rejected his appeal eight months later.

Cheong's sister told the Malaysian press on Tuesday that her parents and a sister will hand a clemency plea and a petition bearing some 8,000 signatures to the Singaporean president at the Singapore palace on Wednesday.

They had insisted that he was a victim framed to traffic drugs into Singapore and were pleading for the Singaporean authority to reinvestigate the case and review the death sentence.

The DVD-seller from the Malaysian southern state of Johor, which borders Singapore, had told investigators when he was caught that he thought he was carrying gold bars.

Among those who would join Cheong's family in Singapore are advocates of another convicted Malaysian drug mule, Yong Vui Kong.

Yong was arrested in 2007 in Singapore with 47 grams of heroin and sent to the gallows two years later.

He was only 18 at the time of arrest.

The Singaporean president is expected to make a decision on clemency for Cheong next week. If he denies the plea, Cheong could be hanged by mid-May.

Source: Xinhua, April 26, 2011

8,778 plead for condemned man’s life

President SR Nathan
PETALING JAYA: The family of Cheong Chun Yin, a 28-year-old Malaysian who is on death row in Singapore, has submitted a petition to the president of the island state, asking him to stop Cheong’s execution and order a retrial of his case.

The petition carries 8,778 signatures, including 401 submitted by Singaporeans and 786 collected online. It was submitted to President SR Nathan at his palace at about 10am today.

Cheong’s cause has been taken up by the Save Vui Kong Campaign (SVKC), the anti-death penalty group that takes its name from Yong Vui Kong, another Malaysian on the Singapore death row.

In a statement released today, SVKC urged the Singapore government to “seriously look into” Cheong’s plea for clemency and called on the Malaysian government to show more concern. It urged Putrajaya to “take more pro-active steps” to help Cheong’s family.

SKVC noted a recent Foreign Ministry statement that 833 Malaysians were detained in foreign countries over drug-related offences.

“Deputy Foreign Minister Richard Riot was also quoted as saying that those arrested were often cheated into becoming drug mules and were most often single mothers and young girls,” said the SKVC statement.

“He also referred them as innocent victims (of drug barons). Cheong is an example.”

The movement also urged both Singapore and Malaysia to re-examine their tough anti-drug laws and policies.

Singapore police arrested Ipoh-born Cheong in June 2008 on suspicion of drug trafficking and the High Court convicted and sentenced him to death in February last year. The Court of Appeal rejected his appeal last October.

Cheong's family submits
clemency plea 
He is now awaiting a response from Nathan to a petition for clemency presented at the end of last January. He is due for hanging in the second week of May. The Singapore president is expected to give his response by the end of this month.

Cheong told the Singapore courts he thought he was transporting gold bars for a man named Lau De, who was a regular customer at his DVD stall in Johor Baru.

His lawyers and supporters claim that his conviction and the rejection of his appeal were done hastily.

In the clemency plea, Cheong’s lawyers noted that the trial judge had said, “I do not believe your story” without justifying his statement. They also noted that the appeal court did not give grounds for its judgment.

Cheong was accused of trafficking in 7.7kg of diamorphine. He was arrested with another Malaysian, a woman named Pang Siew Fum , 54.

Source: Free Malaysia Today, April 27, 2011
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