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…

Death penalty becoming more popular in Indonesia

Death row isolation cells on Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia
Death row isolation cells on Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia
Indonesia, 1 of only 25 countries in the world that still impose capital punishment, has seen 35 people sentenced to death by the courts since the start of the year, according to the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras). That number could grow in the coming years, as the country is mulling whether to widen the application of the ultimate penalty.

Marking the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Kontras issued a report that shows legal flaws in the application of capital punishment and in the execution of 4 death row inmates this year. One bright spot is that some death sentences have been overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court.

"This trend is likely to continue and may even get worse, given the government's legal policies and plans to amend some laws," Kontras warned in the report presented at a news conference on Saturday.

Puri Kencana Putri, Kontras coordinator for strategy and mobilization, called the 4 executions in July "illegal" over flaws in the way they had been carried out. All 4 legal cases had still been pending, Puri said, and none of the convicts' relatives had been properly notified about the executions, as required by the law.

"We even have credible reports to suggest that their isolation cells were flooded knee-deep the night they were executed," Puri said, recalling strong rain that morning at the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, Central Java, where the executions took place.

A separate recent report looks at how five leading newspapers in the country reported on the execution of death row inmates this year. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Jakarta in its report criticized the media for not being critical enough in reporting these executions.

The 35 new death sentences this year add to the already long list of people on death row in Indonesia. In December 2014, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ordered that all 64 people on death row should be executed. 18 of them have since met their death in 3 separate rounds of executions, including the latest one in July.

In 2015, 26 people were sentenced to death at courts of first instance, according to the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR).

Kontras said that 25 of the new death sentences this year were meted to drug traffickers. They include 24 non-Indonesians, from China (10), Malaysia (6), Nigeria (4), Taiwan (2), and 1 each from the US and Pakistan.

The execution of convicts has become something of a hallmark of the presidency of Jokowi, who has declared war on drug trafficking, an offense that carries the ultimate punishment. 14 drugtraffickers were executed in 2015, but an earlier plan to execute14 more in July was aborted at the last minute; instead only 4 were sent to the firing squad.

Until today, the government has not explained the reason for the literally 11th-hour reprieve for the 10. Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo insisted their executions were simply being delayed.

Jokowi has publicly rebuked any attempt at intervention by foreign leaders who asked for a stay of executions for their citizens, citing Indonesia's sovereignty. This did not stop European leaders from telling him to stop the executions when he visited Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium in April.

Indonesia's appetite for the blood of criminals has not stopped there. In the current debate to reform the penal code, politicians are advocating expanding the use of capital punishment to acts of treason, terrorism and terrorism-related activities, genocide, corruption, endangering flight safety, extortion and intimidation. With reports of sexual abuse against children, some politicians have also asked to add this to the list of crimes punishable by death.

The AJI Jakarta report studied 5 Jakarta-based newspapers - Kompas, Republika, Tempo, Media Indonesia and The Jakarta Post - on how they reported the executions this year. The report said all but Republika had taken an editorial position opposing the death penalty, but the study found this to be in contradiction to the tone of their reporting, which supported the death penalty.

Source: The Jakarta Post, October 10, 2016

Watchdog Urges Govt to Cancel Death Executions

The People's Coalition for the Abolition of Death Penalty (Koalisi HATI) has urged the government to implement a moratorium on executions of drug convicts because it violates human rights and has no deterrent effect on drug offenders.

"Death penalty gives no solution for drug trafficking [issue]," said Bahrain, Director for Advocacy of Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (LBH), at his office on Sunday, October 9, 2016. The Joko Widodo administration has executed 14 drug inmates so far. However, data from the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) shows that drug trafficking continues to rise.

"Data from the BNN revealed that there were 1.7 million [drug] users in 2015. After the 2nd round of executions, it has gone up to 5.9 million people," Bahrain said. He has called on the government to change sentences given to death row inmates.

Aside from calling for a moratorium on death penalty, Koalisi HATI has also urged President Joko Widodo to establish an independent team to investigate into wrongful convictions, citing inconsistent approach and lack of transparency in implementing the death penalty.

Head of Indonesian Advocacy for Fellowship of Victims of Drugs Totok Yulianto argued that death penalty is often adopted by the government as the last resort. "In Soeharto era, [death penalty] was adopted on political crimes. In Jokowi era, it is adopted on drug crimes," he said.

According to Totok, the government will find another avenue if it is committed to evaluating the real problems. "Such evaluation has never been done," he said.

In 2014, the government pushed for the death penalty. President Joko Widodo also planned to rehabilitate 100,000 drug users. It turned out that only 21,000 had been rehabilitated, Totok said. Consequently, the government has resorted to the death penalty in 2016. "President Jokowi tries to cover up his failure by [resorting to] death execution," he said.

Source: tempo.co, October 10, 2016

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