Will Texas Admit It Executed An Innocent Man?

Cameron Todd Willingham with daughter Amber

Cameron Todd Willingham

In 2004, Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham for murdering his three children by setting fire to his house.  Now a new report by the Texas Forensic Science Commission has called the arson report so seriously flawed that it cannot be relied upon, “nothing more than a collection of personal beliefs that have nothing to do with science-based fire investigation.”   Willingham was convicted of killing his children by arson, but we now know the fire wasn’t arson.  The commission will release it’s final report next year, and might do what no other state has ever done, admit to wrongfully executing an innocent person.

This might be an interesting point in the death penalty debate.   As David Gann noted in his recent New Yorker article about the Willingham case, which I strongly recommend you read,

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2006, voted with a majority to uphold the death penalty in a Kansas case. In his opinion, Scalia declared that, in the modern judicial system, there has not been “a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.”

Gann’s article is fascinating and worth reading in full.  It’ll break your heart, but read it anyway.

David Gann’s article “Trial By Fire” in The New Yorker

Hon. John Jackson, a prosecutor on the Willingham case, wrote an op-ed in the Corsica Daily Sun in which he attempted to rebut arguments against Willingham’s guilt: Willingham Guilt Never in Doubt

And here is Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project’s devastating rebuttal to Jackson’s rebuttal: Time to Face Truth in Willingham Case

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One Response to Will Texas Admit It Executed An Innocent Man?

  1. Scott Cobb says:

    If you are shocked that Texas executed a person who was innocent of the crime for which he was executed, then join us in Austin at the Texas Capitol on October 24, 2009 for the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.


    At the 7th Annual March in 2006, the family of Todd Willingham attended and delivered a letter to Governor Perry that said in part:

    “We are the family of Cameron Todd Willingham. Our names are Eugenia Willingham, Trina Willingham Quinton and Joshua Easley. Todd was an innocent person executed by Texas on February 17, 2004. We have come to Austin today from Ardmore, Oklahoma to stand outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion and attempt to deliver this letter to you in person, because we want to make sure that you know about Todd’s innocence and to urge you to stop executions in Texas and determine why innocent people are being executed in Texas.”

    “Please ensure that no other family suffers the tragedy of seeing one of their loved ones wrongfully executed. Please enact a moratorium on executions and create a special blue ribbon commission to study the administration of the death penalty in Texas. A moratorium will ensure that no other innocent people are executed while the system is being studied and reforms implemented.”

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