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…

Singapore: Ex-policeman appeals to escape death penalty for Kovan double murders

Iskandar Rahmat
Iskandar Rahmat
3 years after he murdered 2 men, former police officer Iskandar Rahmat is fighting to save his own life.

The Court of Appeal reserved judgment on Wednesday (Oct 26) on Iskandar's appeal against 2 death sentences handed down to him for the murder of Mr Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son Chee Heong, 42, on Jul 10, 2013.

Iskandar's lawyer, Wendell Wong, argued the murder convictions should be overturned and replaced with reduced charges, sparing Iskandar the noose. He urged the apex court to consider new evidence in the form of 2 reports - a forensic pathology report and a psychiatric report.

The forensic pathology report states that Iskandar suffered defensive injuries, lending weight to the defence's case that Mr Tan Boon Sin was the aggressor, and that Iskandar had wrested the knife from his hand and killed him in self-defence.

The latter report said Iskandar was diagnosed with 2 mental illnesses at the time of the murders. This "abnormality of mind ... substantially impaired his mental responsibility" for the killings, psychiatrist Dr John Bosco Lee stated.


Iskandar, 37, was found guilty of two counts of murder and sentenced to death on Dec 4 last year. High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang found "no doubt" that the policeman, facing bankruptcy and dismissal from the force, intended to kill the elderly man for his money.

When Mr Tan's son, Chee Heong, appeared "at the most inopportune moment" at his father's house, "he quickly became collateral damage", Justice Tay said.

Father and son died from multiple stab wounds - 21 and 17 respectively - on areas like the scalp, face, neck and chest. The elder Tan died in Iskandar's arms, while the younger Tan staggered out of the house and collapsed behind a car in the driveway.

His body got caught under Iskandar's getaway car and was dragged for nearly 1km before it dislodged in front of Kovan MRT station. It also left a trail of blood leading back to 14J Hillside Drive, where the other body was discovered.

During his 10-day trial, Iskandar insisted he stabbed the men in self-defence, when the elder Tan came at him with a knife after he realised Iskandar had tricked him into removing S$600,000 in cash from a safe deposit box.

Iskandar maintains all he intended to do was to rob the man, not kill him.

The younger Tan barged in to find Iskandar covered in his father's blood and wielding a knife, and came at him with fists clenched, Iskandar had testified.

Prosecutors said Iskandar intended to kill Mr Tan for the money and decided to finish his son off too, to "silence completely the 2 persons who had seen him".


On Wednesday, they attempted to block Mr Wong from presenting new evidence, pointing out that the reports were prepared more than 3 years after the killings and more than 8 months after the trial.

In response to Mr Wong's submission that Iskandar was suffering from Acute Stress Reaction and Adjustment Disorder around the time of the murders, Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Lit Cheng pointed out Iskandar himself had denied this at trial.

Iskandar cannot be allowed to now rely on "unreliable, self-serving" reports based on interviews 3 years after the fact, the prosecutor argued.

Urging the apex court to uphold the death sentence, DPP Lee said Iskandar had "no choice" but to kill Mr Tan "or face certain reprehension", because of the great lengths to which he had gone to trick the elderly man into removing cash and valuables from a safe deposit box.


Iskandar called Mr Tan from a payphone on Jul 10, and introduced himself as an officer from the Police Intelligence Department. He told the elderly man the police had "intel" that his safe deposit box would be "hit". Mr Tan agreed to replace his valuables with a CCTV camera, under the impression that he was participating in a secret police operation.

The men met later that afternoon at a Shell petrol station in Paya Lebar, where Iskandar passed Mr Tan a dummy CCTV camera to put in his safe deposit box.

Mr Tan did as he was told and returned later with cash and valuables in tow. Iskandar offered to escort him home as he was carrying a lot of money, and Mr Tan agreed.

It was when the pair arrived at the Tan family home at Hillside Drive that things went horribly wrong.

"Your client is the only person alive who was there," Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said, pressing Iskandar's lawyer for an explanation as to why Mr Tan and his son ended up dead, when Iskandar claims he was the one attacked with a knife.

The CJ pointed out there appears to be no explanation for why Mr Tan allegedly attacked Iskandar suddenly, after following the policeman's instructions and even allowing him into his home.

"I have to tell you that that's something that causes me a great deal of difficulty," CJ Menon said, especially because "the only evidence (Iskandar has) put forward pivots on this point - that (Mr Tan) attacked him".

Mr Wong said there was no way the murder weapon could have come from Iskandar. The policeman was dressed in office wear and would not have been able to conceal a knife under his clothes, he argued.

To that, the prosecution reiterated that no knives were missing from the Tan family home and highlighted that Iskandar was "able to describe the knife in detail". He even drew a picture of it for investigators, despite the fact that its details would have been obscured by blood, DPP Lee said.

Iskandar's family was allowed to spend a few minutes with him after the 3-hour hearing. The Tan family was not present.

Source: channelnewsasia, October 26, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; send a submission; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.

Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Iran: Three Hand Amputations, Four Hangings Carried Out in Qom

Iran: Woman Asylum Seeker Lashed 80 Times After Being Deported From Norway

Iran: Three executions carried out, two in front of large crowds

Gambia: President Barrow Signs Abolition Of Death Penalty Treaty

Texas Child Killer John Battaglia Found Competent for Execution

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Two Myanmar migrants make final appeal in Koh Tao murder case

Kenya: Man to hang for stealing toothpaste and toothbrush

Judge warns death row inmate to keep Nevada's execution manual secret

Seventeen Hanged in Various Iranian Prisons, One in Public