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.
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Indonesia murdered eight people. The time for being polite is over

Amid corruption allegations and political posturing, Australia’s neighbours have executed the Bali Nine pair and six others. In our reaction, we do not need to hold back for fear of being seen as arrogant westerners

Everyone was so polite. Not because they are naturally well-mannered, but because of a pragmatic judgment that to be “respectful” to Indonesia as a sovereign nation, respectful towards its judicial system, respectful to its political leaders, was the best way – the only way – to save two Australians from being taken out in the middle of the night and shot dead.

Now that has happened and we can stop being polite. During the 72-hour “notice period” given to the condemned men, Peter Morrissey, one of the lawyers for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, said the “whole approach has been to try to be polite, try to engage. If we try arm-twisting [the Indonesian government] we lose. Pressure will result in death.”

The Australian government performed the same dance. Apart from a cringeworthy moment from Tony Abbott when he asked Indonesia to “reciprocate” for Australia’s generosity after the 2004 tsunami by sparing the men, public pronouncements have been restrained. Not deferential, exactly, but careful to avoid criticism for fear it would be counterproductive.

There was never a guarantee that pleas for mercy would work, of course, and they didn’t. Just after midnight, Sukumaran, 34, and Chan, 31, were gunned down by firing squad on the prison island of Nusa Kambangan. Six other people were also shot in this “batch”, as it’s known, including five more foreign citizens.

Now we can say what these deaths were – the torture and murder of human beings by a neighbouring state. We do not need to spare feelings for fear of being seen as arrogant westerners or hold back because Australia is so far from perfect – witness our treatment of asylum seekers, witness the outrage of phone tapping the former Indonesian president’s wife.

Nothing excuses what Indonesia has done. This was about domestic politics and president Widodo’s determination to be tough in the face of foreign pressure.

There was a moratorium on capital punishment in Indonesia for four years. In 2013 it was lifted because of a “drugs emergency”. Widodo announced late last year he would reject the clemency bids of all 64 drug dealers on death row before he had even seen them.

If we told the truth, we would say that Indonesian attorney general HM Prasetyo has seemed to relish his role. It was repulsive for him to announce that the date of the execution would be put back so it wouldn’t clash with an Asian African conference because “it doesn’t look good when we have guests to shoot them [the prisoners]”, as if would look just fine some other time.

Prasetyo scoffed at legal appeals and predicted they would fail before they were heard. He saw nothing morally questionable in his argument that even if Chan and Sukumaran won their constitutional court case challenging the president’s clemency deliberations – a case set down for 12 May – it wouldn’t have mattered because it wouldn’t be retrospective. “I hear they’re going to challenge to the constitutional court. Go ahead!” he mocked. Several of those executed had legal appeals still under way, which Prasetyo dismissed as “buying time”.

At the last minute, there were corruption allegations so serious that to execute someone without investigating them is a moral crime, if not a legal one.

Source: The Guardian, Gay Alcorn, April 28, 2015

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