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…

Indonesia: Calls to abolish death penalty resonate

Family members and lawyers of convicts recall the confusion ahead of the executions in July amid current uncertainty and a lack of reliable information. Uncertainty continues for the 10 convicts who received last minute stays of execution, as they remain in isolation cells on the Nuskambangan prison island in Cilacap, West Java. Merry Utami, the only female convict, is being housed at Cilacap Penitentiary.

Lawyers are concerned that the executions could take place any time because official execution notification letters issued by the Attorney General's Office (AGO) bear the signatures of the convicts.

"Unless the AGO formally revokes them, the notification letters are legally binding" said Merri's attorney, Ricky Gunawan of the Jakarta-based Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat).

Meanwhile, the attorney of death row inmate Pakistani Zulfiqar Ali, Saut Edward Rajagukguk, emphasized the "inhumane" decision of the AGO to keep Ali at Batu prison on Nusakambangan and its rejection of a request to transfer him to Jakarta for medical treatment. Ali was convicted of heroin possession and suffers from a serious illness.

"I am seriously worried about the condition of [Ali]. He really must get decent medical treatment in Jakarta, but my request for his transfer has been met with no response," Saut said.

In addition to Merry and Ali, the other convicts spared in the 3rd round of executions were Indonesians Agus Hadi and Pujo Lestari; Nigerians Eugene Ape, Obina Nwajagu Bin Emeuwa and Okonkwo Nonso Kingsley; Zimbabweans Fredderikk Luttar and Ozias Sibanda; and Indian Gurdip Singh.

Indonesian Freddy Budiman and 4 Nigerians - Humprey Jefferson Ejike, Michael Titus Igweh and Seck Osmane faced the firing squad in the early hours of July 29 amid heavy rain.

The 4 inmates were among the 18 individuals executed within 2 years of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo taking office in October 2014.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) recorded 35 death sentences issued in 9 months since January this year.

The majority of them were handed down for crimes related to drug trafficking, while 10 for murder and sex offenses.

Zero transparency and a corrupt judicial system remain the most cited problems to challenge Jokowi's unshaken belief in capital punishment to defend his war on drugs.

Activists further argued that the death sentence was handed down mostly to drug couriers, failing to punish their employers. The death penalty has also been seen a tool to garner support for Jokowi.

"If the government is really serious about a war on drugs, they should go after those running the drug syndicates, not helpless people like, for example Mary Jane," said Totok Yulianto of the Indonesian Drug Victim Advocacy Brotherhood (PKNI), referring to Philippine migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso, who received a stay of execution last year on account of an ongoing case in her home country. "It is time for the government to evaluate the death penalty and see how it has failed to create a deterrent effect, as we continue to read news reports of confiscated drugs," said Totok.

Source: Jakarta Post, October 11, 2016

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