Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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 duo denied spiritual counsel

Nusa Kambangan Island, where Indonesia carries out its executions.
Nusa Kambangan Island, off Java, where Indonesia carries out its executions.
Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have been afforded little dignity as they go to the firing squad, their families forced to run a gauntlet before their farewells, and the men denied the comfort of close friends in their final minutes.

Indonesia's Attorney General still hadn't made it official, but it's expected the Australians and seven others will be executed after midnight Tuesday (0300 AEST Wednesday).

Their families were given around five hours to say their goodbyes, but had to push through a scrum of media and barking police dogs on entry to the port to Nusakambangan.

Relatives screamed and Sukumaran's sister Brintha collapsed in the melee and had to be carried into the port office by her father Sam.

An Australian journalist was bitten by a police dog, several reporters were pushed to the ground and a passer-by was shoved from a scooter in the crush around the distressed families.

When finally inside the port office, they could be heard crying.

The families were already upset by news the pair have been denied their choice of spiritual guide in their final hours. [UPDATE: Pastors granted access to Chan and Sukumaran in final hours - Australia's consul general in Bali Majell Hind - who is very close to the Chans and Sukumarans - has arrived at Cilacap's port with pastors Christie Buckingham and David Soper to head over to Nusakambangan. Indonesian authorities have relented and allowed the Bali nine duo's favoured religious counsel to be with them during their last hours but not - as they asked - witness their executions. Source: Tom Allard, Sydney Morning Herald, April 27, 2015, 11:55 pm]

Once they leave Nusakambangan around 2pm, the men will have only Christian leaders nominated by authorities to accompany them, rather than the ones they chose.

In an SMS, Chan's brother Michael told Fairfax Media: 'Last bit of dignity denied.'

Sukumaran had nominated his friend Minister Christie Buckingham and Chan his life-long family friend, Salvation Army minister David Soper, for solace.

Despite it all, lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis told reporters they were still upbeat when he met them on Tuesday morning.

Chan was leading prayers with family and friends and Sukumaran had painted 'one heart, one feeling, in love,' a painting of a heart signed on the rear by the death row prisoners.

He said the painting showed the unity of those going to their deaths.

'Myuran told me, thank you for believing in us and please fight for the abolition of the death penalty,' Mr Lubis told reporters.

The lawyers want the executions halted while claims of corruption surrounding Chan and Sukumaran's death sentences investigated, after their former lawyer claimed judges asked for a $130,000 bribe in exchange for leniency.

President Joko Widodo, who campaigns on fighting corruption, responded coolly to the claims, questioning why they hadn't been raised before.

Mr Lubis says that's because the former lawyer, Mohammad Rifan, has just come forward, and the judicial commission was only now beginning its probe.

He'd been summoned to give a statement next week and believed Chan and Sukumaran would be needed too.

'These executions should not go ahead before the judicial commission has resolved the complaint,' he said.

Police on Tuesday told reporters they had readied the firing squads, and coffins arrived at Nusakambangan on board ambulances on Tuesday morning.

The Chan and Sukumaran families were expected to give a statement to the media on their return from Nusakambangan on Tuesday afternoon.

In Jakarta, attorney general spokesman Tony Spontana announced the start of the quiet period that precedes the executions, just before 2pm local time.

Mr Spontana said the Attorney General HM Prasetyo would make an announcement of the executions after they had taken place.

Source: SkyNews.com.au, AAP, April 28, 2015

Myuran Sukumaran to look his executioners in the eye

Myuran Sukumaran will refuse to wear a blindfold so he can look his executioners in the eye when he faces the firing squad on Tuesday night, a close friend has revealed.

He will face it with strength and dignity, I know that, I know that about him, because he won't want his mother to think he's a weeping mess at the end. - Ben Quilty
Ben Quilty, an Australian artist who has grown close to the prisoner since teaching him to paint, said Sukumaran wanted to show strength and dignity because he doesn't want his mother "to think he's a weeping mess" in his dying moments.

Australian lawyer Julian McMahon with three somber self portraits painted by
Myuran Sukumaran on Nusa Kambangan island during the 72 hours preceding
the executions.
"Myuran always said to me that he would never take this lying down; that he would stare them down, that no one would cover his eyes, that he would face it with dignity," he told Reverend Bill Crews in a conversation on 2GB Radio.

Quilty revealed that Sukumaran would be thinking most about his mother when he is taken out of his cell on Nusakambangan Prison in the middle of the night on Tuesday to be shot by specialist Indonesian police.

"He will face it with strength and dignity, I know that, I know that about him, because he won't want his mother to think he's a weeping mess at the end. He'll want his mum to think that he's brave and strong and dignified and she should be proud of the man that he's become," Quilty told Reverend Crews on Sunday night.

"He always said to me that he's made terrible mistakes… I think he's forgiven himself for the horror of what he did, the crime that he did, but he has never been able to forgive himself for what he's put his mum through and his little sister and his little brother."

Sukumaran and Andrew Chan will be executed after midnight on Tuesday, local time, after their families say their final farewells about 2pm.

Prisoners have the option of standing, sitting or kneeling and wearing a blindfold. Each prisoner has 12 marksmen aiming rifles at his or her heart but only three have live ammunition, so the executioner remains unidentified.

Quilty said that he will probably be in his studio painting when his friend is executed because "Myuran would want me to paint on that night".

"If Myuran were in my shoes he'd probably be in his studio," he said. "[Painting] is something that you become very, very dedicated to and very driven by and it enables you to become a much better person and Myuran would want me to paint on that night."

In their final 72 hours, Chan was granted permission to marry his fiancee, Febyanti Herewila, and Sukumaran painted what would be his last self portrait: a torso with a palm-sized black hole over the heart dripping with blood.

Quilty lashed out at Indonesian authorities, saying the drama and constant delays surrounding the executions has been "very gross".

"This sounds harsh but if they were going to do this, they should have done it at the beginning and got it over and done with and let the families start grieving," he said.

"The hardest thing for me now is the only thing, the only help that I can offer my friend, is to start planning his funeral four months after they threatened to do this. It's inhumane, I'm speechless."

He vowed to Reverend Crews that he would spend the rest of his life fighting the death penalty.

"There is no case for it," he said. "We are human beings and for us to have compassion and forgiveness and to understand that flaws is what makes us human and I will fight for that for the rest of my life."

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Rachel Olding, April 28, 2015

Mary Jane Veloso's final message to her sons

The sister of Mary Jane Veloso, the woman from the Philippines who is due to be executed along with eight others this evening, has relayed her last words to her children in this video from Rappler.

"I want you to think that mama died in a pure heart, without fault, that I'm going to heaven," says Maritess Veloso-Laurente.

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