Executed Arsonist Case Returns To Texas Panel

AUSTIN (AP) – The disputed case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of the arson deaths of his three small children and executed, returns to the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

The panel Friday is considering testimony it heard earlier this month from experts who differed on whether the investigation of the 1991 fire in Corsicana was botched. The commission also is to order a report written about the case.

The 36-year-old Willingham was executed in 2004. Death penalty opponents say he could be the first U.S. inmate wrongly executed in modern times.

The lead investigator ruled the fire an arson, and prosecutors said the arsonist was Willingham. Two experts told the commission two weeks ago the original investigation was deficient and the blaze cause should have been listed as undetermined.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. Tom says:

    I am a death penalty proponent, but the Willingham case is one where the science that convicted him was simply not reliable. The death penalty should be reserved for cases where there is NO doubt as to what happened, the cruelty of the crime and its impact upon the victim(s) should be very high, and the liklihood of the offender committing more murders should be virtually assured. None of that was true in the Willingham case.

    If we want a an effective death penalty, the state should provide a “death case team” for both the prosecution and the defense. These teams of lawyers, investigators, and experts should be funded by the state so that a particular county is not bankrupted by the case’s finances. The lawyers for both side should be the best trained, and the courts should rely upon a special “death judge” who either assists the sitting judge or tries the case. There should be absolutely no hidden discovery or games played with the facts. Experts should be provided to both sides without ridiculous financial limits ($500 buys very little from expert witnesses who charge $250 or $300 per hour). The cases themselves should be reviewed by the “death case team” for being appropriate for the penalty. The trials should be moved from the original jurisdiction to a more neutral location to avoid jury issues. Finally, once the case is tried, if convicted, the first appellate review should be automatic and should consist of a virtual retrial on all issues, facts, and law sua sponte.

    But, once convicted and appealed, the execution should proceed promptly. If the death penalty is to have any true meaning, it should be applied swiftly and humanely. Otherwise, why go through it? The costs are horrendous – up to $2 million to try a case. Dragging out the execution of a clearly guilty person has no “example” effects on the public. Life without parole has the same effect of taking that offender off the streets.

    I am a former prosecutor and retired defense attorney. I believe in the death penalty. But we must not only streamline it, but make it idiot proof and 100% reliable. Until we do that, we should consider stopping until it is.

  2. oldman68 says:

    Look at all tjhe cases where people are being found to be innocent after 10-15-20 yrs in the clink with DNA.Why don’t the system check DNA on EVERY case where it is available-then we would know.Why?-Texas doesn’t want to spend the money.Your life here amounts to how big your bank account is when it comes to justice.We have the best system MONEY can buy.

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