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…

Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiter a frequent traveler, gov’t records show

Maria Kristina Sergio (R) and Julius Lacanilao, the recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso
Maria Kristina Sergio (R) and Julius Lacanilao, the recruiters of M. J. Veloso
Maria Kristina Sergio’s travel records revealed that she went abroad five times in 2008, 14 times in 2009, nine times in 2010 and twice in 2011.

MANILA – Lawyers of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row in Indonesia, said one of her recruiters appears to be a “frequent traveler” based on government data from 2008 to 2011 which were presented at the hearing today, Dec. 15, before a Nueva Ecija court.

Maria Kristina Sergio, whom Mary Jane’s family has charged with qualified human trafficking in person, illegal recruitment, and estafa, travelled abroad 30 times in a span of three years, as shown by records from the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

“Kinda frequent flyer for someone who claims to be indigent and purportedly cannot afford the services of private counsel. It is a ruse to complete her contrived defense,” Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said in his Facebook post.

The NUPL is representing Mary Jane and her family in the case against accused Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao. Both are also facing charges of large-scale syndicated illegal recruitment filed by three women who surfaced at the height of the campaign to save Mary Jane from the gallows.

NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez said BI records verifier Angelito Lopez took the witness stand and who presented Sergio’s travel records, which revealed that she went abroad five times in 2008, 14 times in 2009, nine times in 2010 and twice in 2011.

Cortez added that the defense lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office “tried to block the presentation of the travel record, insofar as the travels made prior to April 21, 2010 are concerned, arguing these are not relevant” but the court agreed to the presentation of Sergio’s travel record.

Mary Jane’s former husband Michael Candelaria also took the witness stand today for the continuation of his direct-examination and cross-examination. Cortez said Candelaria “stood his ground despite attempts of the defense counsel to discredit his credibility and testimony and survived cross examination unscathed.”


Last Nov. 10, Candelaria first took the witness stand and narrated how Mary Jane was recruited by Sergio and Lacanilao and that they paid the couple P20,000 ($400). He said he brought Mary Jane to the bus station after they handed the money to the accused.

Apart from Candelaria, other members of Mary Jane’s family, including her sister Maritess Laurente and mother Celia Veloso, had already taken the witness stand.

As far as the NUPL is concerned, the only “remaining material witness” in the charges filed against the accused is that of Mary Jane’s.

Mary Jane Veloso, a victim of human trafficking
Mary Jane Veloso, a victim of human trafficking
Sto. Domingo Regional Trial Court Branch 88, which is presided over by Judge Anarica Castillo Reyes, has already granted the prosecution’s motion to allow deposition by written interrogatories in order to secure Mary Jane’s testimony. This will be conducted by the Philippine consul, in accordance with the Rules of Court in the Philippines.

The same court has denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the lawyers of the accused. Defense lawyers also filed a motion to defer the filing of their comment on the written interrogatories submitted by prosecution as they intent to file a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals.

In the hearing today, the prosecution lawyers were given five days to file its comment or opposition to the new motion filed by the defense.

The written interrogatories would be the first time for Mary Jane to tell about her ordeal, as the Indonesian justice system did not allow such. She remains in prison in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, almost two years since her scheduled execution was stayed at dawn of April 29, 2015 amid national and international outcry about her being a victim of human trafficking.

The case is again set for hearing on Feb. 23, March 9, April 27, May 18 and June 22.

Source: blutalat.com, Jonas Alpasan, December 15, 2016

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