An execution, ten years after

by Walter Olson on August 6, 2014

First a house fire killed Cameron Todd Willingham’s three tiny daughters. Then the state of Texas killed him. Mistakes were made, notes the Washington Post. The forensics testimony on accelerants has long since been discredited, and now the jailhouse informant whose words sent Willingham to execution, who has wavered between recanting and not-recanting, has given a recantation with much more circumstantial detail about the lies he says he told on the stand.

Here’s a Texas Monthly article (linked a while back) on the unsettling history of arson forensics over many years, in which the use of accelerants was deduced from dubious evidence in such a way as to shift many fires from the “likely accidental” to the “deliberate” category, with dire legal consequences for family members and others on the scene. Earlier on the Willingham case, including pro-prosecution links, from five years ago. More: Jonathan Adler.

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Grim toll of faulty arson forensics - Overlawyered
09.02.14 at 12:45 pm

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1 william Nuesslein 08.06.14 at 10:23 am

Several years ago Governor George Allan of Virgina was pilloried for using some slur against a videographer. The left indulged their obnoxious self assurance and ruined Mr. Allen. I hope he is doing well. But very early on Governor Allan set a policy that anyone having a valid exculpatory DNA case would get out of jail. That was the application of rationality in pursuit of real justice. The instant Texas case is just the opposite. Texans electeced a tent revival preacher to lead them, and justice took it on the chin. It seems that one need not be a left wing nut or a right wing nut. Just being an American seems to bring out the worse in man.

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