(Originally published Aug. 28, 2009)
The Corsicana Daily Sun missed a golden journalistic opportunity on Thursday by merely reprinting the AP article with respect to the Cameron Todd Willingham murder case. The Daily Sun is in possession of its compete reportage of the early '90's trial and is in a much better position to examine the actual trial evidence elicited.
The Willingham trial has become a sort of cause celebre by anti-death penalty proponents because it seems to be an example of outmoded scientific techniques which led to a miscarriage of justice. In fact, the trial testimony you reported in 1991 contains overwhelming evidence of guilt completely independent of the undeniably flawed forensic report.
Always omitted from any examination of the actual trial are the following facts:
1. The event which caused the three childrens' deaths was the third attempt by Todd Willingham to kill his children established by the evidence. He had attempted to abort both pregnancies by vicious attacks on his wife in which he beat and kicked his wife with the specific intent to trigger miscarriages;
2. The “well-established burns” suffered by Willingham were so superficial as to suggest that the same were self-inflicted in an attempt to divert suspicion from himself;
3. Blood-gas analysis at Navarro Regional Hospital shortly after the homicide revealed that Willingham had not inhaled any smoke, contrary to his statement which detailed “rescue attempts;”
4. Consistent with typical Navarro County death penalty practice, Willingham was offered the opportunity to eliminate himself as a suspect by polygraph examination. Such opportunity was rejected in the most vulgar and insulting manner;
5. Willingham was a serial wife abuser, both physically and emotionally. His violent nature was further established by evidence of his vicious attacks on animals which is common to violent sociopaths;
6. Witness statements established that Willingham was overheard whispering to his deceased older daughter at the funeral home, “You're not the one who was supposed to die.” (The origin of the fire occured in the infant twins bedroom) and;
7. Any escape or rescue route from the burning house was blocked by a refrigerator which had been pushed against the back door, requring any person attempting escape to run through the conflagration at the front of the house.
Co-counsel Alan Bristol and I offered Willingham the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty in return for a sentence of life imprisonment. Such offer was rejected in an obscene and potentially violent confrontation with his defense counsel.
The Willingham case was charged as a multiple child murder, and not an arson-murder to achieve capital status. I am convinced that in the absence of any arson testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been unchanged, a fact that did not escape the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. While anti-death penalty advocates can muster some remarkably good arguments, Todd Willingham should not be anyone's poster child.
Submitted by John H. Jackson, Sr. Judge, 13th Judicial District. Jackson was one of the prosecutors for Navarro County in the Cameron Todd Willingham case.
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(Originally published Aug. 28, 2009)
- The Willingham Files
Science panel suggests review of arson convictions
A Texas commission no longer allowed to investigate a case where death penalty opponents say a man may have been executed based on a faulty arson investigation recommended Friday that all cases involving people locked up on arson convictions be reviewed.
Thompson honored for Willingham work
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(12-02-09) Jurors defend verdict that led to Texas execution
David Martin is sickened by the suggestion that Texas executed an innocent man when Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death for setting a fire that killed his three children.
- (11-10-09) Forensic panel chair offers plans The Texas Forensic Science Commission is not going to debate the death penalty or decide the guilt or innocence of individual cases, said John Bradley
- (11-08-09) GUEST COMMENTARY: A work in progress I am John Bradley, the elected District Attorney in Williamson County and the new presiding officer of the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission. I am writing to introduce myself, explain the purpose of the Commission and inform you about the work the Commission now faces.
- (10-27-09) Texas Forensic Science Commission questioned The City of Corsicana is questioning the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s ability to look at the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, since it happened 14 years before the commission was created.
- (10-26-09) Report: Willingham's former wife, 'He confessed' In a story on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's online newspaper today, Stacey Kykendall, the former wife of executed Cameron Todd Willingham, says he confessed to her before his execution.
Death penalty opponents rally at Texas Capitol
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Death penalty opponents, convinced an innocent man was executed in 2004, staged a rally Saturday at the Texas Capitol to call for a moratorium on capital punishment and to highlight the controversial case of Cameron Todd Willingham.
- More The Willingham Files Headlines
- Science panel suggests review of arson convictions