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…

Patrick Henry, French child murderer in famous case, to be released

PARIS (AP) - French criminal justice authorities say a child murderer whose case has become a symbol of the fight against the death penalty will be released from prison.
The prosecutor's office in Melun, south of Paris, said Friday that 64-year-old Patrick Henry has had his sentence suspended for medical reasons.
Henry was serving a life sentence for the murder of a 7-year-old boy in 1976.
At the time, his lawyer Robert Badinter used his case to advocate against the death penalty. 
The argument remains one of the most famous of France's judicial history.
The death penalty was abolished in France in 1981 when Badinter was justice minister.
Henry's lawyer Hugo Levy told France Info radio his client has lung cancer.
Source: The Associated Press, September 15, 2017

➤ Related content:France: Convicted child killer Patrick Henry to be released on parole after 38 years behind bars, January 7, 2016

Patrick Henry libéré après 40 années passées en prison
Il est l'un des plus anci…

Does the State of Oklahoma have jurisdiction in Indian Country?

OKLAHOMA CITY -- On August 8, The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a death penalty conviction of a Muscogee (Creek) citizen, based on a decision that Patrick Dwayne Murphy should have been tried in federal court not state court since his offense occurred in Indian Country.
The landmark decision also brought into question the legal definition of Indian Country when the panel unanimously decided that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation had not been disestablished and that the Nation’s 1866 Treaty boundaries define the tribe’s Indian Country.
At least half of Oklahoma will be held to be Indian Country, fundamentally altering both civil and criminal jurisdiction.
Patrick Dwayne Murphy was tried and convicted in Oklahoma state court for the August 1999 death of George Jacobs, Sr., and was sentenced to death. In his appeal, Murphy claimed he was tried in the wrong court, challenging the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma state court in which he was convicted of murder an…

Hundreds jailed in Egypt after mass trial over Morsi protests

Life sentences handed to 43 for role in demonstration over former president’s ousting
An Egyptian court sentenced hundreds to jail for murder and illegally protesting on Monday after a mass trial criticized by rights groups.
But it acquitted an Irish student, a high-profile detainee who says he was tortured in custody.
Ibrahim Halawa was on trial with three of his sisters and nearly 500 others, all charged with, among other crimes, breaking into a mosque, killing 44 people, and illegal possession of firearms.
The incidents followed the military's ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013.
The defendants were all facing the death penalty but none received it. Instead the judge sentenced hundreds to jail terms including 43 people to life in prison, which in Egypt is 25 years, and five years of parole.
Another 17 people were sentenced to 15 years in prison, 67 to 10 years, and 216 to five years. Two minors were sentenced to 10 years in absentia and six to five years.

Another Saudi young Shia faces execution after unfair trial

83 already executed this year, with political dissidents and Shia minority targeted
A young Saudi Arabian Shia man who says he was tortured to “confess” alleged crimes committed when he was aged 16 faces imminent execution, said Amnesty International today.
The family of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, now 21, were yesterday informed that the country’s Supreme Court has upheld a death sentence for his alleged role in anti-government protests.
Mr Al-Hawaj was sentenced to death in July last year for a range of offences related to his alleged involvement in anti-government protests in the Shia-majority Eastern Province in 2012, when he was aged 16. His case is just one of several death penalty cases involving Shia Muslim men from the Eastern Province.
Al-Hawaj has now exhausted all his appeals and faces execution as soon as the Saudi Arabian king – Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – ratifies his sentence, which could happen at any time. 
Due to secrecy surrounding the judicial process in Saudi Ar…

EU: 60 countries join Alliance for Torture-Free Trade; China and US not participating

The European Union is spearheading an effort to limit the global trade of torture instruments and tools used to carry out executions.
Almost 60 countries have committed to join the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, which formally launched at the United Nations on Monday.
Countries with some of the highest numbers of executions, including China and the US, are not participating.
But supporters of the initiative say the alliance is a start.
Goods such as shock belts, spiked batons and gas chambers are among the products targeted by the movement, which is also backed by Argentina and Mongolia.
Some of the items can be found for purchase online, which EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom called "unacceptable".
"I'm not naive. I know you can torture a person with a pencil if you want to, but this is a way to at least limit the access of these products," Ms Malmstrom told the BBC.
Members of the alliance plan to collaborate on laws curbing trade in these goods and …

Utah: Two death row inmates need new attorneys — but will anyone sign up?

Wanted: An attorney to represent a Utah man condemned to death.
Must be licensed to practice law in the state of Utah and meet the state’s special qualifications for death penalty cases.
The pay is about $125 per hour — but co-counsel in one case will warn you, there’s been trouble actually getting paid. And the last guy who had the job? He left because payment issues and threatened disciplinary sanctions took a toll on his health.
Nine men are currently on Utah’s death row. Two of them — 61-year-old Floyd Maestas and 59-year-old Douglas Lovell — currently have no qualified lead attorney representing them as they appeal their capital murder convictions in state court.
And while the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers isn’t telling its members to not apply for the job, it’s not exactly encouraging them to do so either.
Executive Director Stewart Gollan said the organization has “strongly encouraged” its members to think carefully about what they’re signing up for if they take…

Dylann Roof wants to fire Jewish, Indian lawyers

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A white supremacist who was sentenced to death in the 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers has told a federal appeals court he wants to fire his appellate attorneys because one of them is Jewish and the other is Indian-American.
In a handwritten request filed Monday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Dylann Roof wrote that his attorneys' backgrounds are "a barrier to effective communication."
Given their ethnicities, Roof wrote, "it is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case."
"Because of my political views, which are arguably religious, it will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys that are my political and biological enemies," he added.
Roof, 23, has been on federal death row since earlier this year, after a jury convicted him of dozens of charges including federal hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion in th…

Iran: More Public Executions, Prisoner Hanged While Crowd Watched

Iran Human Rights (SEPT 19 2017): A prisoner by the name of Samir Deivband was hanged in public in the city of Ilam in front of a crowd of people.
According to a report by the state-run media IRIB, the prisoner was sentenced to death on murder charges and was hanged in public on the morning of Sunday September 17. 
The IRIB report only identified the prisoner by the initials "S.D.", but local sources confirmed the prisoner's name to Iran Human Rights as Samir Deivband.
The research of Iran Human Rights shows 33 people were hanged in public in Iran in 2016 and an audience of hundreds of people, including children, were present for most of these hangings. 
Human rights activists and informed members of civil society have always severely criticized this issue.

Another prisoner by the name of Abouzar Ghadami was executed the day before, September 16, 2017, in Shiraz, southern Iran. He had been also found guilty of murder.

A young man identified as Davoud Hajizadeh was pub…

In Pakistan, a Text Message Can Lead to a Death Sentence

In Pakistan, a poem sent over WhatsApp can prove deadly.
On September 14, a court in Gujrat district, Punjab province sentenced to death Nadeem James, a 35-year-old Christian, for sending a poem to a friend that was deemed insulting to Islam. James denies ever having sent the message.
James isn’t the only person in Pakistan condemned to death over a post on social media.
In June, Taimoor Raza, 30, was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur district for allegedly making blasphemous comments during a Facebook chat with someone who eventually turned out be a counterterrorism agent on the prowl. 
In April 2014, a Christian couple were sentenced to death for sending a blasphemous text message to a local cleric. The couple claimed that they were illiterate and could not have sent a blasphemous text in English. 
Junaid Hafeez, a university professor, has been imprisoned for nearly four years facing a possible death sentence for accusations of sharing blasphemous materia…