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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…

Indonesia: The honeymoon is over for Jokowi

Portrait of Indonesian president Joko Widodo by executed Bali Nine member Myuran Sukumaran in January 2015
Portrait of Indonesian president Joko Widodo by executed Bali Nine
member Myuran Sukumaran in January 2015
This time last year, Joko Widodo's supporters took to the streets to celebrate his victory in Indonesia's presidential election. He was hailed as the people's president, his win in the polls seen to signal a new chapter for Indonesian democracy.

The former furniture salesman and small-town mayor, who insisted on being called by his nickname, "Jokowi", represented a break from the stronghold of elite and military circles over the nation's highest position of power.

One year on, and the president has developed a very different reputation, both at home in Indonesia and internationally. Social media users in the world's most active Twitter-using country have in recent weeks adopted the trending hashtag #SudahlahJokowi (Enough already, Jokowi) to express their disillusionment.

Relations with Australia have hit a new low, with an ambassador being recalled from Indonesia for the first time. Meanwhile, the Australian public's feelings toward Indonesia have cooled to the lowest point in eight years, according to the latest Lowy Institute Poll.

No direct link can be made between Jokowi's weakening position and his decision to go ahead with the execution of death-row drug smugglers in January and in April. The president had already signed the execution papers last December, when he was still enjoying relatively high popularity ratings. However, the timing of the executions does suggest a political motivation to show his strength and decisiveness as a leader, and to recover public support.

Capital punishment has strong mainstream support in Indonesia. IThe decision by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono​ to grant clemency to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby was highly unpopular. By enforcing the death penalty for drug smugglers, and particularly for foreign drug smugglers, it is likely that Jokowi sought to distinguish himself from his predecessor and show his commitment to firm and fair law enforcement.

Unfortunately for Jokowi, this attempt to appeal for public support lost him a great deal of international support. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret over the executions, and urged a return to the moratorium introduced by Yudhoyono. Brazil and the Netherlands both withdrew ambassadors following the first round of executions in January. France and the Philippines objected to their citizens' scheduled executions in April, which did not eventuate due to ongoing investigations and appeals. In response to the executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in April, Australia for the first time withdrew its ambassador from Jakarta, the country's biggest overseas diplomatic post.


Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Catriona Croft-Cusworth, July 11, 2015

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