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…

2,200 French nationals detained abroad, seven sentenced to death

Imprisoned in Mexico since December 2005, Florence Cassez was finally released Wednesday, Jan. 23 following a decision by the Supreme Court. This happy outcome should give hope to many French prisoners in the world, much of whom claim to be innocent. According to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2,216 French nationals were detained abroad as of December 2, 2012.

The vast majority (1,467) of them were imprisoned in Europe and Central Asia, according to the geographical classification of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by North Africa (293) Asia and Pacific (116) Latin America (112), Sub-Saharan Africa (102), North America (99) and the Near and the Middle East (27).

Seven of them are sentenced to death, but the Foreign Ministry did not specify in which country. According to the NGO "Together Against the Death Penalty", they were sentenced to death in Indonesia, the United States, China and Maghreb countries.

Serge Atlaoui is one of them. This 48 year-old Frenchman was sentenced to death on 29 May 2007 by an Indonesian court, which found him guilty of organizing a network of production and trafficking of ecstasy.

Also in Indonesia, another Frenchman, Michael White, was sentenced in 2000 to life imprisonment for drug trafficking, later reduced to twenty years in 2009. He was arrested on 26 December 1999 at Bali airport with 3.8 kilos of hashish hidden in diving equipment. Mr. White has consistently insisted on his innocence, claiming that a friend had given him the incriminated material.

The "celeb" of French people held abroad is Le Floch-Prigent. The former head of oil group Elf is currently being held in Lome, Togo, where he was charged with "conspiracy to defraud" in September. His "catastrophic" state of health, according to his lawyer, raises concerns.

Mention may also be made of Zacarias Moussaoui, sentenced in 2006 in the United States to life in prison for complicity in the attacks of September 11.

The two main grounds for detention are narcotics (38.9% of cases) and common law crimes (theft, fraud, embezzlement, corruption, 35.6% of cases). "Sexual offenses" account for 3.4% of convictions. In other cases, the reasons for detention are not known.

Some French prisoners may apply for transfer to France if they fulfill certain conditions: judgment must be final, duration of sentence remaining to be served must exceed six months, France and concerned country must have signed a bilateral or multilateral agreement on transfer of sentenced persons (in the case of 78 countries).

Source: Le Monde, January 24, 2013

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