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…

Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, who avoided Bali Nine firing squad, has clemency bid rejected in Indonesia

Serge Atlaoui and his Indonesian lawyer
Serge Atlaoui and his Indonesian lawyer
An Indonesian court has rejected an appeal by French drug convict Serge Atlaoui, who was due to face the firing squad with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

"We reject the challenge by the challenger," presiding judge Ujang Abdullah told the State Administrative Court in Jakarta, ruling on the appeal.

The court upheld its previous decision from April that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the challenge to the clemency plea, which is typically a death row convict's final chance to avoid execution.

"We are disappointed with the decision but we will continue to find other legal avenues," Atlaoui's lawyer Nancy Yuliana told reporters, adding that the legal team was still considering its next steps.

"From the very beginning, we knew that he was innocent... We are not asking for him to be set free, we are just asking for his sentence to be reduced to life imprisonment."

Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the attorney-general's office, which is in charge of executions, told AFP that the authorities "appreciate this decision".

However he signalled the execution would not happen during Islam's holiest month, Ramadan, which ends mid-July (July 17) in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

"I think it's not a wise decision to carry out an execution in Ramadan," he said.

Atlaoui, 51, who was arrested in a raid on a factory producing ecstasy pills on the outskirts of Jakarta in 2005, had no further legal options available, spokesman Tony Spontana said.

He had been due to face the firing squad in April with Chan and Sukumaran, two Australian members of the so-called Bali Nine drug ring. The execution in April of two Australians, a Brazilian and four Nigerians sparked global anger. But President Joko Widodo insists convicted traffickers must be harshly punished, saying Indonesia is facing a crisis due to rising drug use.

Atlaoui won a temporary reprieve after authorities agreed to let an outstanding legal appeal run its course.

He was challenging president Joko Widodo's decision to reject his request for clemency, typically a death row convict's final hope of avoiding execution, claiming the leader did not properly consider his case.

Atlaoui's lawyers said they would still seek legal avenues to appeal the death sentence.

Source: Agence France-Presse, June 22, 2015

Indonesia Rejects Appeal by French Drug Convict on Death Row

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian court rejected on Monday an appeal of a French drug convict, potentially reigniting international tensions over the country’s use of the death penalty for serious narcotics offenses.

The convict, Serge Atlaoui, 51, lost his appeal to the Jakarta State Administrative Court, which aimed to upend President Joko Widodo’s decision last December to deny him clemency following a death sentence.

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office, Tony Spontana, said the appeal was the last such legal maneuver available to Mr. Atlaoui. An execution is unlikely to be scheduled before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on July 17, Mr. Spontana said.

Since entering office in October, Mr. Joko has taken a hard line against drug kingpins, with his administration arguing that they are complicit in an epidemic of drug-related deaths, particularly among the young. In April, eight drug felons — all but one of them foreign citizens — were executed.

President François Hollande of France has warned of “consequences” should Mr. Atlaoui be put to death. Australia recalled its ambassador after two of its citizens were among those executed in April.

Fallout from Mr. Joko’s backing of the courts has also come from unexpected sources. Brazil and Nigeria, longtime allies of Indonesia among the so-called nonaligned nations, both issued diplomatic complaints after losing two of their citizens. The refusal by Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, to accept credentials from Mr. Joko’s choice for ambassador to the South American country was seen as part of the rebuke.

“That was a serious blow,” said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watchin Indonesia. “They expected it from the Australians. They didn’t expect such opposition from Brazil or Nigeria.”

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Source: The New York Times, Jeffrey Hutton, June 22, 2015
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