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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Bali Nine: decade of turmoil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran nears a gruesome end

Kerobokan 2010. Reverend Thompson Manafe, Martin Stephens (light blue
shirt), Scott Rush, Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Matthew Norman.
Neither [Chan or Sukumaran] appeared in those first videos from Denpasar airport, of the young men stripped to their underwear, eyes wide with horror, as Indonesian police peeled sheets of tape and straps from their stomachs and thighs.

Chan was arrested later that day aboard a flight bound for Australia, carrying no drugs, just mobile phones. The police found Sukumaran in a Kuta beach hotel room with 350g of heroin and three accomplices. It was 17 April 2005, and the group – quickly dubbed the Bali Nine – had been under surveillance for a week, after a tip-off.

Sensational media reporting fuelled tough public judgments. Chan was the “godfather” of the operation. Sukumaran, a hulking “martial arts expert”, was the enforcer. What little sympathy the public could muster was saved for the drug couriers they had recruited, such as 19-year-old Scott Rush.

A wayward kid from Sydney, Rush had told his parents he was camping up the coast. But messages on his family’s answering machine indicated he had bought a ticket to Bali. His father, Lee, grew worried. “Scott never had a passport. He certainly didn’t have the finances to be able to participate in such a trip,” he later told the ABC.

Through a lawyer, Robert Myers, Rush contacted the Australian federal police. Myers warned that Scott could soon make a trip to Bali, that he feared the young man was being paid to smuggle drugs. Speaking to the ABC, Lee Rush swore the police had assured them: “Scott would be spoken to and asked not to board the flight.”

In court and in subsequent inquiries, police have denied any such assurance was made. “The AFP … had no lawful authority to stop Scott Rush,” Mike Phelan, then the AFP’s international network manager, has insisted.

The tip was passed to the Indonesian drug squad. Rush was among the first arrested in Denpasar airport. He later said an Australian officer was present at the scene, that he made a phone call, saying, “We’ve got ’em.”

Easily cast as villains

The trials opened in October 2005. All but Chan and Sukumaran pleaded guilty. Evasive, unrepentant, absurdly insisting their innocence, the pair were easily cast as villains.

In truth, the “godfather” Chan was a 22-year-old still living with his parents in western Sydney, a drug user working a dead-end job. A reputed drug kingpin, he drove a 1991 Hyundai coupe.

Sukumaran, also living with his parents in Sydney, had turned 24 the day of his arrest. He had wanted to escape his job in a mailroom, maybe use his cut of the deal to buy a car, or start a business. “You see all these people in night clubs with nice BMWs, and nice Mercedes, and there’s always chicks there,” he reflected later. “And you think, fuck, how do you do this on a mailroom salary?”

In February 2006 the seven couriers were each sentenced to life in prison. The court found no evidence to back claims by some that they had been forced to carry the drugs after threats by Chan and Sukumaran to harm their families.

For the duo, who were found to have supplied cash and booked flights and hotel rooms, it was death by firing squad. Anti-drug demonstrators outside the court reportedly cheered at the verdict.


Source: The Guardian, Michael Safi, April 26, 2015

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