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  1. #76
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    There's a very similar case here...


    It seems like arson investigation is the dodgiest branch of forensic science, I'd be very cagey about convicting if I was on a jury in an arson case.

  2. #77
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Wow. I am simply floored, speechless and sick to the pit of my stomach. Thanks so much for posting this article.

  3. #78
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    Quote Originally Posted by Cappuccino View Post
    There's a very similar case here...


    It seems like arson investigation is the dodgiest branch of forensic science, I'd be very cagey about convicting if I was on a jury in an arson case.
    Quoting from Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States:
    A Path Forward (2009)
    Despite the paucity of research, some arson investigators continue to make determinations about whether or not a particular fire was set. However, according to testimony presented to the committee, many of the rules of thumb that are typically assumed to indicate that an accelerant was used (e.g., “alligatoring” of wood, specific char patterns) have been shown not to be true. Experiments should be designed to put arson investigations on a more solid scientific footing.
    Willingham was convicted on the basis of false assumptions from the arson "expert". Watch Frontline: Death by Fire and you will understand the nature of the evidence used against him and why it's clear he was wrongly convicted.

  4. #79
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    the prosecutor in the case may have concealed a deal with a jailhouse informant whose testimony was a key part of the execution decision.
    Seems evidence of a deal was found...

    a note scrawled on the inside of the district attorney’s file folder stating that Mr. Webb’s charges were to be listed as robbery in the second degree, not the heavier first-degree robbery charge he had originally been convicted on, “based on coop in Willingham.”

  5. #80
    Join Date
    Jun 2007

    Death Penalty?

    I don't really support the Death penalty but I have never lost any sleep over it because in every situation I was aware of, the defendant appeared to have been guilty of a heinous crime. Now it looks like they got an innocent guy.

    There have been countless folks convicted of Arson based on the testimony of Arson Inspector who represented their evidence as being based on scientific certainty when it wasn't science at all. The outrage in this case wasn't that the forensic evidence was flawed (although it was definitely flawed). The outrage was that recent science based studies; i.e. Real Science had made real progress in the understanding of forensic evidence in arson cases, an analysis of the evidence in this case tended to establish that this was not arson at all and Governor Rick Perry had access to this information while he had the opportunity to delay the execution while it could be studied further.

    Perry signed a death warrant on a man he should have suspected was innocent and the guy wants to be president.

    Latter, his staff explained that although they were aware that there was "serious problems" with the forensic evidence presented at the trial, the evidence presented by the Jail-yard snitch was so compelling that they still thought he was guilty.

    How credible is a jail-yard snitch? Does anyone really believe that a con would give States Evidence against a fellow inmate without the expectation of personal benefit?

    Cameron Willingham died because in Texas, D.A.'s (and perhaps Governors) get re-elected when they get Death Penalty convictions and are able to carry them out.

  6. #81
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Governor Perry claimed that he was aware that there were serious problems with the forensic evidence presented to the jury but he was so impressed by the testimony of a "jail-yard snitch" that he was still convinced that the jury "got it right". Apparently, the claim was made that the the "jail-yard snitch" received no "benefit" from his testimony. Turns out that the snitch was well rewarded for his testimony (see link below).

    A certain number of innocent defendants are convicted. No Criminal Justice System is perfect. If a convict is later exonerated, he can be released. If he has already been executed, its more of a problem. Particularly for the governor who signed the death warrant. The problem with Death Penalty type cases is that they are generally particularly heinous. There is no worse crime that I can think of than killing your kids because you don't want the responsibility of caring for them. There must have been pressure on the DA to get a DP conviction and he may have been "certain" of Willingham's guilt. It must be frustrating in situations like that where the evidence just isn't there. I can see why the DA "crossed the line" and why the Governor backed him up in spite serious problems with the trial, but they are inexcusable. They violated the oaths of their offices and probably put an innocent man to death.


  7. #82
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Rochester, New York
    The reason for the cover up is that it wouldn't help Rick Perry's political aspirations to admit he let an innocent man die when he could have stopped it. JMO

  8. #83
    shadowraiths's Avatar
    shadowraiths is offline LISK Liaison, Verified Forensic Psychology Specialist, infoSec Architect
    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    A dad was executed for deaths of his 3 girls. Now a letter casts more doubt.

    CORSICANA, Tex. — More than a decade after Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the arson murder of his three young daughters, new evidence has emerged that indicates that a key prosecution witness testified in return for a secret promise to have his own criminal sentence reduced.

    In a previously undisclosed letter that the witness, Johnny E. Webb, wrote from prison in 1996, he urged the lead prosecutor in Willingham’s case to make good on what Webb described as an earlier promise to downgrade his conviction. Webb also hinted that he might make his complaint public.


    Forensic Psychology Portal

    I tend to disappear from Websleuths from time to time.
    If I do, you can usually find me on

  9. #84
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    there is no evidence that has not been discredited in this case, there is no way he ever would have been charged if not for the report saying it was absolutely arson - and every significant point in that arson investigation has been proven false. not possibly false, not theoretically maybe not quite right - 100% false by repeated scientific experiment.

    the jailhouse confession has been recanted multiple times and involved corruption, it would never have been allowed into court.

    his demeanor and actions at the crime scene have either been innocently explained or proven to have been falsely represented over time.

    the psychological testimony came from discredited sources who were unqualified to give such testimony, and the testimony they gave was not based in science. it would absolutely not be allowed in any court today. they testified that because he had a skull tattoo and rock posters with skull, snake, flame imagery that that should be taken as evidence of his psychological condition...

    im sure people will still argue that he is probably guilty, or that none of this PROVES his innocence - but the facts are the facts and there is ZERO evidence left that would result in this man ever being charged.

    BUT maybe im missing something, its possible. what evidence still holds up and is strong enough proof that it would lead to this man being charged with arson and murder?

    you can argue that the jury did the best they could with the evidence they were presented, but that is not the argument anymore...

  10. #85
    There is a recent long and detailed article on this case (1), which also cites as a reference the "Trial by Fire", "The New Yorker" article (2) that was the inception for this thread.

    Former Texas governor Rick Perry comes off looking very small in this matter. An attempt was made to get a "posthumous pardon" for Willingham while Perry was still governor (1). Perhaps they should have waited, but they can try again now that Texas has a new governor.

    Texas Executed an Almost Certainly Innocent Man
    The Texas Forensic Science Commission chairman tried to convince Texas that Cameron Todd Willingham was a monster. Did politics trump truth?
    By Jeremy Stahl
    AUG. 15 2015 9:04 PM
    This story is part of a special Slate Plus package on Jeremy Stahl’s “The Trials of Ed Graf.” Be sure to check out another Slate Plus exclusive related to this story, a profile of the family of Cameron Todd Willingham and their campaign to have him exonerated.

    "At the end of 2013, Willingham’s family members and Michael Morton, who has become a prominent advocate for criminal justice reform, came together to call on Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to give Willingham a posthumous pardon. In April 2014, the board voted to reject their plea. The Willingham family is still hoping that the new governor, Greg Abbott, or a future one will eventually grant their request."

    Trial by Fire
    Did Texas execute an innocent man?

  11. #86
    Join Date
    Apr 2013

    "... John Jackson...returned, this time as a defendant, facing charges brought by the State Bar of Texas, whose lawyers argue that Jackson violated basic legal ethics in connection with his conduct in prosecuting the county’s most notorious case, the death penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted and ultimately executed for what the state insists was the December 1991 arson-murder of his three young children in the home they shared just over a mile away.

    Specifically, the state’s lawyers contend that Jackson made a deal with a jailhouse snitch who agreed to testify against Willingham and then hid that deal from Willingham’s defense attorneys — a clear violation of both law and ethics. They say that Jackson took extraordinary measures over the next two decades to conceal his deceitful actions.
    “It is a duty of the prosecution — an ethical obligation — to turn over that evidence,” state bar lawyer Kristin Brady told jurors in her opening arguments last Wednesday afternoon. “For years he protected this snitch; for years. It wasn’t for [the snitch’s] protection, it was for his own protection.”..."


    Link: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ie6ZzwdU3O...llingham+7.jpg

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