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…

Moroccan court sentences drug kingpin to death

A Moroccan court has sentenced the head of a major drug gang to death after he was found guilty of manslaughter and narcotics trafficking in a high profile case that also saw security officials convicted of their involvement.

The official MAP news agency said Casablanca's appeal court handed down the death sentence to Najib Zaimi late on Thursday.

The death penalty has not been carried out since 1992 in Morocco, which ranks as the biggest supplier of cannabis to Europe. In October, a court near Rabat sentenced to death the chief plotter of an April Marrakesh bomb attack that killed 17.

Authorities said in 2010 they had dismantled an international drug trafficking ring and discovered 7.5 tonnes of cannabis hidden at a farm near Nador owned by Zaimi, who has denied any wrongdoing.

They said the network had a string of officials on its payroll who helped it bypass police and customs checks, allowing it to transport drugs from Nador to Spain and the Netherlands.

Nador is located in the Rif region of northern Morocco where several thousand people still earn a living from cannabis cultivation despite efforts by authorities to curb the activity.

The prosecution had sought the death sentence for the ring leader and other suspects for their involvement in torturing to death a relative of Zaimi suspected of stealing money from him.

Zaimi has the right to appeal his sentence but it was not clear whether his lawyers had moved to do this.

His right-hand man, Hicham Chouhou, was sentenced to life imprisonment while Mohamed Jalmad, the former head of police in Nador, was sentenced to 3 years in jail.

MAP said Zaimi's father was given 20 years in jail, while 2 other relatives were also sentenced to prison.

It did not detail any sentences given to 30 other suspects also charged in the case. These included 13 members of the paramilitary police and auxiliary forces, a member of military intelligence, an interior ministry official as well as the head of a banking branch and a local reporter.

Source: Reuters, January 13, 2012

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