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…

Indonesia Gets Reprieve for 9 Death Row Inmates in Saudi Arabia

The Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia has said it has managed to save nine of the 15 Indonesians on death row in the conservative Islamic state.

“Out of the 15 cases of Indonesians threatened with the death penalty, nine of them have been saved by the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh in 2011,” state news agency Antara quoted an embassy statement it received from Riyadh on Thursday as saying.

The statement said the trial process for the other 6 were not yet over and that the embassy was offering continuous assistance, including providing translators and lawyers.

It said that some of the nine who were granted reprieves have since been returned home. They included Darsem binti Daud Tawar, who was accused of killing her employer’s son, who has since obtained a pardon from the family and returned to Indonesia in July.

Bayanah binti Banhawi, who was found guilty of killing her employer’s 4-year-old infant, had her death sentence commuted to jail for negligence leading to loss of life. She has since been freed and returned to Indonesia in December. Neneng Sunengsih binti Mamih, who was also found guilty of killing her employer’s baby, was later acquitted and freed.

Neneng is still at the embassy building in Riyadh, awaiting her return to Indonesia later this month.

Darmanti Kusandi binti Harjum Karim and Junaesih Oman Diyar, both of whom are on death row for alleged use of black magic, had their death sentences later commuted to a jail sentence.

Sumartini binti Manaungi Galisung and Warnah Binti Warta Niing also were sentenced to death for use of black magic, sentences that were later commuted to jail terms.

2 other Indonesian domestic workers, Milan Nuryani and Yumanaha binti Nagabiyu, were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery but had their punishments changed to jail terms.

The embassy release said that to provide legal assistance to Indonesian citizens in trouble with the law in Saudi Arabia, the embassy in Riyadh and the consulate general in Jeddah worked together with local lawyers.

On Dec. 13, the embassy signed a contract with a local attorney, Abdullah Abdurrahman Al Muhaemeed, while the consulate general in Jeddah is expected to enter a similar contract soon with local lawyer Khuddran bin Mufsir Al Zahrani.

The embassy said that it was also regularly publishing the Warta Indonesia, or Indonesia News, magazine to help spread information among its citizens living and working in Saudi Arabia about the legal risks they could face if they engaged in crime or violations of the law in that country.

“Warta Indonesia magazine always provides legal guidance for all Indonesian citizens in Saudi Arabia, regarding what awaits murder cases, drug offenses, black magic and adultery cases and other criminal offenses,” the statement read.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, January 5, 2012

Dozens of migrant workers avoid death row, govt claims

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono praised the Migrant Workers Protection task force for helping dozens of Indonesians working abroad to avoid death penalties.

“This achievement is very important. It helps us evaluate our policies concerning migrant workers and provide better protection to our workers in the future,” he said during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

According to Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately managed to walk free.

“In Saudi Arabia, 37 Indonesian workers managed to avoid beheading. 8 of them were declared innocent. Four of the eight workers acquitted have returned to Indonesia,” he said.

As many as 14 workers in Malaysia, according to Djoko, had also been acquitted in death penalty cases. “6 of them were declared innocent while the remaining 8 people were sent to jail.”

11 Indonesian workers in China and 2 in Iran also ducked the death penalty, he added.

“Our policy to hire lawyers in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia has proven beneficial in terms of providing legal assistance to our workers who faced legal proceedings,” he said.

Yudhoyono claimed his efforts to improve communications with leaders of the countries where Indonesian workers were employed had also helped them receive lighter sentences.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar, meanwhile, said the government had decided to maintain its current ban on recruitment agencies sending Indonesian workers to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait.

“Those countries have not adopted a legal framework that we think is sufficient to legally protect our workers and assure that their rights are fulfilled,” Muhaimin said.

Malaysia was no longer on the list since its government has approved Indonesia’s requests to provide better protection for migrant workers.

“Malaysia has agreed to oblige employers to provide one day off per week for domestic workers, let Indonesian workers keep their passports and pay salaries through bank transfers,” Muhaimin added.

He called on all labor recruitment agencies across the nation to obey the ban. “Because, if you insist on sending workers to those nations, the workers would become illegal workers, meaning they would be more prone to legal problems.”

Task force chairman Maftuh Basyuni said there were two Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia — Tuti Tursilawati from Majalengka, West Java, and Siti Zaenab from Madura, East Java — whose cases were of critical concern because they have not yet avoided the possibility of beheading.

Under Saudi law, forgiveness from a relative of the victim can save a convict from a death sentence.

Source: Jakarta Post, January 5, 2012

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