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…

Saudi Arabia: Combating Disinformation In the Wake of Rizana Nafeek's Execution

The international condemnation of Rizana Nafeek's unjust execution has not elicited a positive response from Saudi authorities. There have been no promises for reform or pledges to reexamine the justice system's flawed management of migrant workers.

Instead, Saudi Arabia has adopted a defensive approach to combat these "defamatory" and "misleading statements."

Officials denied Nafeek was underage and claimed that she not only had a lawyer, but that the Sri Lankan embassy was deeply involved in the case.

However, Nafeek's passport was falsified - a fact that was established years ago, and that has even been confirmed by Saudi authorities in the past.

Additionally, officials distorted the support mechanisms available to Nafeek; she did not have a lawyer during her initial confession, she was not provided with a translator during her initial trials, and the embassy did not intervene in her case until she was sentenced to death.

Saudi authorities claim Nafeek was awarded "her full legal rights' - but the absence of sufficient legal rights for domestic workers is precisely what NGOs have denounced.

Opinion commentators and media figures have also parroted similar distortions in defense of the legal system's treatment of foreign workers. 

This article cross-posted in the Saudi Gazette begins, predictably, by justifying Nafeek's execution with problematic references to Sharia. 

Saudi's misappropriation of the Sharia is a complex discussion that is beyond the scope of this article - however, it is worth exploring less politically motivated, mainstream interpretations of the death penalty in Islamic jurisprudence. The following excerpts are from a translation of a speech by Dr Hamdy Murat, a professor of Sharia at Al Balqa Applied University in Jordan:

Sharia stresses averting punishments (Hudud) if suspicions arise. Prophet Mohammed said: "Avert punishments if suspicions arise". Suspicion means that for any offense that cannot proved 100%, so to speak, punishments should be averted.
"Suspicion" means the presence of deficiency in absolute certainty. If suspicion arises, the punishment set for a certain offense must be prevented and milder penalties should be sought.
Decisive Sharia regulations specify five objectives. After the 1st objective, which is the preservation of religion, comes the protection of life. Every attempt should always be made to avert capital punishment.
The answer is that the certainty of the person being a murderer must be 100%; allow me to use that expression. If the percentage is lower, no matter what the reason, then suspicion arises in this case.

There was much uncertainty in Nafeek's case. Her account was at odds with the employer's account, but there was no forensic evidence to indicate that Nafeek was lying. That there was not 100% certainty is especially evident in the years her case rebounded between courts.

Source: migrant-rights.org, January 25, 2013

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