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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…

Jessica Wongso, Mirna Salihin and the fatal cyanide drink

Police officers conduct a preliminary re-enactment at Olivier Cafe.
Police officers conduct a preliminary re-enactment at Olivier Cafe.
An Indonesian Australian woman charged with the fatal cyanide ­poisoning of her friend must be ­executed if found guilty to prevent copycat murders, the dead woman’s father says.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Indonesian Law Minister Yasonna Laoly have confirmed Indonesia gave an undertaking in return for Australian Federal Police co-operation in the case that the death penalty would be taken off the table for Indonesian-born Australian permanent resident Jessica Wongso.

Ministerial approval is a necessary condition for Australian assistance in investigating crimes that could lead to the death penalty, after the AFP tip-off that ultimately led to the ­execution last year of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Dermawan Salihin, 64, told The Australian yesterday that this should not affect the Indonesian judges’ final sentencing decision should Ms Wongso be found guilty of his daughter’s murder. “If this girl manages to get away then the same thing can happen to other people. Somebody can just poison another person and get away with it,” the Jakarta businessman said. “This girl has to be killed as an example so nobody else follows what she has done. Everybody in Indonesia is watching this.”

Ms Salihin (left) and Ms Wongso (right)
Ms Wongso will face a Jakarta court today charged with the premeditated murder in January of former college friend Wayan Mirna Salihin, 27, at an upscale cafe in Jakarta. The women studied together at Billy Blue College of Design in Ultimo, Sydney. Ms Salihin returned to Indonesia in 2014 while Ms Wongso had been back in Jakarta just five months when she was detained on suspicion of murder.

An autopsy confirmed Ms ­Salihin died of cyanide poisoning soon after drinking a Vietnamese iced-coffee ordered for her by Ms Wongso. The case has become a tabloid staple, fuelling salacious speculation over the motives for Salihin’s killing and a ghoulish boom in business for the Olivier cafe where she was killed. “Everybody calls it Mirna’s coffee; ‘I’ll have a Mirna’s coffee, but without the cyanide’,” Mr ­Salihin said.

Police say CCTV footage shows Ms Wongso ­arriving at the cafe an hour before Salihin and a third friend, ordering drinks and waiting alone at the table.

Just before her arrest, Ms Wongso told an interviewer on Indonesian TV that she had no idea what was happening when Salihin became ill after sipping her drink. “I was thinking, ‘What is wrong with her? At that time I didn’t think anything more. I thought it might be a heart attack, but it’s not possible, she’s still so young.”

Indonesian police travelled to Australia in February, where they are understood to have interviewed former work colleagues of Ms Wongso at the NSW Ambulance Service. Potassium cyanide is a chemical commonly used in goldmining and is cheap and readily available in Indonesia.

Source: The Australian, Amanda Hodge, June 15, 2016

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