Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

The Willingham Files

October 3, 2009

(10-04-09) City report on arson probe

State panel asks for city response in Willingham case

The City of Corsicana is calling foul in the latest review of the Cameron Todd Willingham case by Craig Beyler.

Although Willingham was found guilty of the 1991 murder of his three toddler daughters and executed in 2004, the case has been picked up by the Innocence Project as an example of misuse of the death penalty. At the Project’s request, the Texas Forensic Science Commission hired Beyler to reexamine the case for any mistakes that might have been made in the original investigation. Beyler wrote a scathing account of the work done 17 years ago, focusing on the trial testimony and where he claims the investigators ignored scientific method in favor of outdated wives’ tales about fire.

On Friday, the City released its response to the report, suggesting Beyler is an advocate for Willingham, and accusing him of misrepresenting the facts.

“It appears as if Dr. Beyler grossly misinterpreted some of the testimony to make some points,” said Terry Jacobson, Corsicana city attorney. “There’s evidence for a jury to have found (Willingham) guilty of murdering his kids.”

On Friday the Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to question Beyler about his report, but some last-minute appointments by Gov. Rick Perry forced the cancellation of the meeting.

Prior to the new appointments, the commissioners asked Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullan to examine Beyler’s report and make an official response.

This is not the work of an independent, objective person, the response states.

“Given some of Dr. Beyler’s distortions of the trial record, as described below, it may be that he has assumed the role of an advocate,” the response states.

Among the many points in the city’s 21-page response:

• Beyler overlooked Willingham’s inconsistencies. According to witness statements, Willingham said that he fled out the back door; that he searched the house for the children before fleeing out the front door; that he kicked down the front door (he told some people he kicked it down from inside, others that he kicked it down from outside); that he was awakened by his daughter Amber coming into his room; that Amber’s screams woke him from another room; that he told Amber to get out of the house; that he tried to grab Amber but she evaded him and fled; that he crouched below the smoke to go into the children’s rooms to search for them; that he stepped over the baby gate in their doorway, both coming and going; that he tried to reenter the house after escaping, and that he didn’t try to reenter the house because of the fury of the fire. In all, the city points out 27 discrepancies in the Willingham stories to various witnesses and the investigators.

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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.

    October 29, 2011

  • 9-30 DA Award.jpg 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.

    September 29, 2011 1 Photo

  • 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.

    January 21, 2010

  • (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.

    December 14, 2009

  • images_sizedimage_336091456 (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.

    December 2, 2009 1 Photo

  • (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

    November 10, 2009

  • (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.

    November 9, 2009

  • (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.

    November 2, 2009

  • (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.

    October 27, 2009

  • 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.

    October 24, 2009

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