An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

Execution of innocent Texas dad gets media attention

Think there are no innocent people who have been executed? – read the full story in a New Yorker article about Cameron Willingham, innocent but executed in 2004 in Texas.

Bob Herbert, op-ed columnist for The New York Times also wrote about the case in column titled Innocent But Dead.

There is a long and remarkable article in the current New Yorker about a man who was executed in Texas in 2004 for deliberately setting a fire that killed his three small children. Rigorous scientific analysis has since shown that there was no evidence that the fire in a one-story, wood frame house in Corsicana was the result of arson, as the authorities had alleged.

In other words, it was an accident. No crime had occurred.

Cameron Todd Willingham, who refused to accept a guilty plea that would have spared his life, and who insisted until his last painful breath that he was innocent, had in fact been telling the truth all along.

Update: PBS’s Frontline series did a remarkable documentary (first aired on October 19, 2010) about Willingham’s story.

Death by Fire

In Death by Fire, FRONTLINE gains unique access to those closest to the Willingham case — meticulously examining the evidence used to convict Willingham, offering an in-depth portrait of those most impacted by the case, and exploring the explosive implications of the execution of a possibly innocent man.

“The state of Texas executed a man for a crime that they couldn’t prove was really a crime,” nationally renowned fire scientist John Lentini tells FRONTLINE.

The re-examination of the case turns on a critical finding that came only weeks before Willingham’s scheduled execution: The investigators who determined that Willingham had set the fire that killed his three daughters had relied on an outdated understanding of arson evidence. “Todd Willingham’s case falls into that category where there is not one iota of evidence that the fire was arson,” forensic scientist Gerald Hurst tells FRONTLINE of the results of his review of the evidence. “Fundamentally, this was a classic accidental fire.”

But even with a central pillar of the state’s case against Willingham in doubt, Texas Gov. Rick Perry refused to delay Willingham’s execution.

Death by Fire can be viewed online. We don’t know now long PBS will have the video available.


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