Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Iraq's judiciary denies deal to commute French jihadist death sentences

Iraqi courtroom
Baghdad (AFP) -- Iraq's judiciary on Tuesday denied it had struck a deal with Paris to commute the death sentences of French nationals convicted in Baghdad for belonging to the Islamic State group.

A Baghdad court issued death sentences in recent weeks for 11 Frenchmen transferred to Iraqi custody from neighbouring Syria, where they were caught fighting for IS.

Only an appeals court -- not a bilateral agreement -- can change their sentences, according to Abdalsattar Bayraqdar, spokesman for Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council.

"The sentences issued by Iraqi courts can only be reviewed by the court of cassation -- which has the prerogative under the law to reaffirm the sentence or alter it depending on the circumstances of each crime -- and not through deals between countries," he said on Tuesday.

His statement comes after reports that Iraq's government had struck a deal with Paris to commute the French citizens' death sentences in exchange for money.

The 11 sentences are still not final.

According to Iraqi law, defendants have 30 days to appeal any sentence and for those facing the gallows, the appeal is automatically referred to the cassation court.

There, it will be reviewed by 12 judges, according to Mudhaffar Jaryan, a lawyer for one of the convicted men.

"The prerogatives of the cassation court are to either confirm the sentence, which becomes obligatory, or to lighten it -- or to order a retrial if it found insufficient evidence," he told AFP.

Jaryan said he was preparing an appeal for a retrial on behalf of his client Bilel Kabaoui, 32, who was sentenced on June 3.

He argues that Kabaoui had not fought in Iraq and therefore should not be tried there, and that the taped confessions used by prosecutors included many contradictions.

Iraqi courts have convicted more than 500 foreign nationals for IS membership since 2018, most of them captured on Iraqi territory.

They are now trying accused foreign IS members who were captured in neighbouring Syria by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and transferred to Iraqi custody by the coalition fighting the jihadists.

Iraqi government sources have told AFP that Baghdad would be willing to try hundreds more foreign fighters in exchange for $2 million (1.8 million euros) for each defendant.

Iraq argues its courts can try jihadists captured outside its territory because they provided material support to IS operations inside Iraq.

Its judiciary has issued dozens of death sentences for foreigners convicted of IS membership but has not carried them out.

One of them, a German woman, saw her death penalty commuted to a life sentence on appeal.

Source: Agence France-Presse, Staff, June 11, 2019

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but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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