By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
CORSICANA (AP) — More than five years after his final act from the Texas death chamber gurney was a profanity-filled tirade, the murder case of executed inmate Cameron Todd Willingham refuses to die.
Willingham was executed in February 2004 — proclaiming his innocence and hoping aloud that his wife would “rot in hell” — for the deaths of his three young daughters in a fire at their Corsicana home on Dec. 23, 1991.
An arson finding by investigators was key to his conviction in the circumstantial case.
The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that investigates possible wrongful convictions, questioned Willingham’s guilt. Now the Texas Forensic Science Commission will review a report Friday from an expert it hired who concluded the original arson determination was faulty.
The prosecutor in the case still believes Willingham is guilty, but acknowledges it would have been hard to win a death sentence without the arson finding.
Yet Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, sees it differently: “There can no longer be any doubt that an innocent person has been executed.”
In 2006, Scheck’s group gave its review of the case to the state commission, which later hired Baltimore-based arson expert Craig Beyler to study. Beyler concluded the arson finding was scientifically unsupported and investigators at the scene had “poor understandings of fire science.”
John Jackson, the prosecutor in Navarro County, about 50 miles south of Dallas, says the original fire investigation was “undeniably flawed,” based on subsequent reviews, but remains confident Willingham was guilty of killing Amber, 2, and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron.
“What people missed is that even though the arson report may be flawed, it certainly doesn’t mean it arrived at a faulty conclusion,” Jackson said.
“I’m an easy target,” he added, shaking his head over media reports on the case “about how we’re all a bunch of bozos.”
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
- 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
Lowell Thompson, Navarro County District Attorney, was honored by his peers at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association conference last week in Corpus Christi with the Lone Star Award for his work on the Willingham case.
- Willingham not on science panel agenda DALLAS (AP) — A state science panel looking into a possible wrongful conviction in a Texas death penalty case is meeting for the first time since Gov. Rick Perry removed several members, but the execution case is not on the agenda.
- (12-14-09) Tarrant County medical examiner appointed to forensic commission Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Tarrant County's medical examiner to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a group shaken up this fall when Perry replaced several members.
(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