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 South Korean drug dealers executed in China

2 South Koreans were executed in China on Wednesday for smuggling and trading drugs in the country despite Seoul's repeated pleas for clemency, a government source said Wednesday. 

A district court in China's Jilin province, which borders North Korea, ordered the execution of the 2 South Korean drug dealers, who were convicted of smuggling a large amount of methamphetamine from North Korea into China and selling it to traffickers in their home country, said the source, requesting anonymity. 

It marked China's 1st execution of a South Korean since a South Korean national was executed in 2004 for committing murder. Another South Korean was executed in 2001 after being convicted of drug crimes. 

In April 2011, the duo were arrested on charges of smuggling 14.8 kilograms of methamphetamine and selling 12.3 kilograms of the drug to dealers in South Korea, according to the source. 

The court had earlier sentenced them to death and the province's appellate court upheld the ruling in June 2013. China's highest court finally confirmed the sentence in March. 

Since the Chinese government notified South Korea of the court's decision last month, Seoul had repeatedly asked for a stay of execution on humanitarian grounds, the official noted. 

China rejected the pleas, saying both domestic and foreign drug dealers should be equally subject to China's strict punishment for drug crimes, according to the source. 

"The South Korean government expresses deep regret over the latest execution of our citizens in China," foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said. "The government has repeatedly pleaded for humanitarian consideration through various levels of channels ... and we plan to provide all the necessary support (to the families of the 2)." 

Another execution is awaiting a South Korean drug dealer in Shandong province, who was recently sentenced to death for smuggling and trading 11.9 kilograms of drugs in 2009, another diplomatic source said. 

The highest court delivered its order of execution for the South Korean drug offender to a regional court in the province and the execution may take place in the near future, the source said. 

The execution of the 2 South Koreans came after a series of recent death penalties carried out against foreign drug dealers in China. 

1 Brit, 5 Japanese, 5 Filipinos and 1 Pakistani have been put to death for drug offenses since 2009. 

Producing or trading more than 1 kilogram of opium or 50 grams of methamphetamine or heroin is subject to heavy punishment in China. 

"In the past 5 years, China has executed drug criminals from Britain, Japan, the Philippines and Pakistan. They were executed for dealing about 3 to 4 kilograms of drugs, far less than what the 2 South Korean dealers were caught dealing," the official noted. 

About 20 South Koreans have been sentenced to the death penalty for drug-related offenses in China, but most of them have had their sentences commuted, he added. 

Source: Yonhap News Agency, August 6, 2014

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