Science

More Strange Turns in Texas' Possible Execution of an Innocent Man

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More odd developments in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Texas man executed in 2004 for killing his three daughters by intentionally setting fire to his own house. Nine arson experts have since come forward to denounce the testimony of the forensic arson specialists who testified at Willingham's trial. The latest was commissioned by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a committee created by the state's legislature to ensure the integrity of forensic evidence presented in court. That report came out at about the same time as an article in the New Yorker presenting a strong case for Willingham's innocence.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry then came under fire earlier this month by refusing to reappoint three members of the Forensic Science Commission at a critical point in its investigation of the Willingham case. Perry had been urged by the committee members and others to reappoint the members so as not to disrupt the Willingham investigation. The investigation is now on hold.

Perry has since replaced a fourth member of the commission. The ousted members are now talking about the pressure Perry's administration put on them to bury any evidence calling Willingham's guilt into doubt.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The former two-term chairman [of the Forensic Science Commission], Sam Bassett, told the Chronicle that Perry's attorneys suggested the hiring of a nationally known fire expert was a "waste of state money."

During one conversation, Bassett said, Perry's then-General Counsel David Cabrales told him that the panel's probe of Willingham's case and that of a wrongly convicted El Paso man weren't the kinds of investigations "contemplated by the statute." Later, Bassett recalled, Cabrales suggested the panel be more forward-looking rather than looking back at older cases.

As the Chronicle article points out, the statute establishing the commission clearly states that the commission is empowered to look at forensic malfeasance in old cases.

It gets even stranger. The Texas blog Dog Canyon reports that Gov. Perry's general counsel at the time of Willingham's execution was himself indicted in an arson case in 2008. David Medina was able to get the indictment dismissed after questioning the judgment of the arson investigators for failing to look at possible causes of the fire other than arson—precisely the criticism leveled at investigators in the Willingham case. The Harris County District Attorney's refusal to bring charges against Medina moved two members of the grand jury that indicted him to speak out publicly against the decision. Medina now sits on the Texas Supreme Court. Perry appointed him to that position in 2004.

It's unclear what role Medina played in Perry's decision to let Willingham be executed. Perry won't release any records related to his administration's handling of the case. Medina's own indictment came a few years after Willingham's execution.

Perry continues to defend Willingham's execution. This week, he described the latest of the nine forensic arson specialist to condemn the evidence presented at Willingham's trial as "politically driven." He also called Willingham a "monster" noting that Willingham was profane, was accused of beating his wife, and was hated even by his own defense attorney.

Meanwhile, at least one juror who voted to convict Willingham now says she's having doubts about her decision.

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  1. Getting stranger yet still . . .

    http://www.chron.com/disp/stor…..70672.html

    1. Yes, this confession is the kind of thing you set on for five years, until the heat get get turned up.

  2. Here’s hoping this torpedos any further political career for Governor Hair.

    1. I’m with you on your statement, but Texas loves it’s death penalty and I’d bet they love people that defend it. Perry is hoping he can bury it buy reminding everyone how evil the guy was. A tactic that will probably win.

  3. Maybe Medina is the real arsonist.

    1. How cliched.

  4. I might get a little profane if I were to be falsely accused of murdering my kids and faking my own injuries. I might even get a little stabby.

  5. He also called Willingham a “monster” noting that Willingham was profane, was accused of beating his wife, and was hated even by his own defense attorney.

    Oh, so he was a dick. If the penalty for being a dick in Texas is the electric chair, it’s gonna get a lot of use. Also, they can start with Perry, who is clearly guilty of that.

  6. Texas is killing a number of people far over national and international averages, this is a fact that something is wrong in the Texas Criminal System. And now it looks like there is an alleged cover up set by the Governor himself. Blacks and Hispanics are at a risk of death in Texas should they make a mistake. The State has a lust for death

    1. This guy was white, but yeah.

  7. as we all know, no one has ever falsely confessed to a crime, nor have relatives of victims ever lied about someone they believed to be responsible

  8. This just isn’t right.
    “””
    [a href=
    “https://reason.com/admin/pages/”]was himself indicted[/a]
    “””

  9. http://camerontoddwillingham.com/?page_id=6

    Sign the petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.

    We plan to deliver the petition at the http://marchforabolition.org 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penaltyon October 24 at 2pm in Austin at the Texas Capitol.

  10. What to you expect of a state that makes Iran look like a Communist country, Im not surprised.

  11. Perry’s behavior may seem strange but in the context of Texas politics it is not. In Texas, even democrats are Bible thumping authoritarian social conservatives. If the state were to secede from the union it would be likely to adopt a theocratic form of government.

    Perry has made a series of decisions that are logical when taken in context. The state killed an innocent man, but it’s OK, cuz he was a devil worshiper.

  12. Anybody who looks at the facts of this case . . . ALL the facts . . . and still supports the death penalty, has to have an IQ in the high single digits. FUCK Perry, and FUCK Texas

  13. Fucking scumbag. Fuck Texas. Let these assholes secede. We don’t need or want them. They’re nothing but a shitstain on our country. Let’s give them back to Mexico.

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