Four of the nation's top arson experts have concluded that the state of Texas executed a man in 2004 based on scientifically invalid evidence, and on Tuesday they called for an official reinvestigation of the case.Local Note: Judy Baar Topinka, Republican candidate for governor, would have Illinois rejoin Texas in the killing business.
In their report, the experts, assembled by the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization responsible for scores of exonerations, concluded that the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson-murders of his three daughters was based on interpretations by fire investigators that have been scientifically disproved.
"The whole system has broken down," Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of the Innocence Project, said at a news conference at the state Capitol in Austin. "It's time to find out whether Texas has executed an innocent man."
The experts were asked to perform an independent review of the evidence after an investigation by the Tribune that showed Willingham had been found guilty on arson theories that have been repudiated by scientific advances. In fact, many of the theories were simply lore that had been handed down by generations of arson investigators who relied upon what they were told.
The report's conclusions match the findings of the Tribune, published in December 2004. The newspaper began investigating the Willingham case following an October 2004 series, "Forensics Under the Microscope," which examined the use of forensics in the courtroom, including the continued use of disproved arson theories to obtain convictions. ***
One of the four authors of the report, John Lentini, a private fire investigator who first examined the Willingham case at the request of the Tribune, is a leading proponent of grounding arson investigation in proven science.
The report calls upon the criminal justice system to require arson investigators to have backgrounds in the science of fire and that criminal defense lawyers be afforded money to hire independent fire investigators. It also urges that participants in the justice system, particularly prosecutors, who decide whether to bring charges, be educated about scientific advances in fire investigation.
"There is no crime other than homicide by arson for which a person can be sent to Death Row based on the unsupported opinion of someone who received all of his training 'on the job,'" the report states.
At the news conference, Lentini said the analysis of the testimony by fire investigators in the Willis and Willingham cases shows that "over and over and over again, they repeated the mythology. … These guys didn't know what they were talking about."
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
"Kill 'Em All -- Let God Sort 'Em Out"
From your Chicago Tribune:
- ► 2008 (244)
- ► 2007 (349)
- 08AMA DAMMIT!
- Roskam Compares Single Mothers to Criminals
- I Just Like Thinking About a "Bush Post-Presidency...
- Fear the Conservatives
- Don't Forget the Reason for the Season
- At War With The Mystics
- Sun-Times' Robert Novak and Karl Rove
- Rampaging Hastert
- Chicago: Barking Dogs A Menace, Except When They'r...
- "A Public Service Announcement for Those Americans...
- Strippers Converge on Chicago
- Jay Mariotti, This is Why You Will Deserve It When...
- Charity Begins at Home
- "The Plan"
- Gallows Humor
- Local Author's Sophomore Effort
- "What Happened Is True. Now the Motion Picture Th...
- Creepy Pete Getting Sleazy
- Denny A-Tax Working Families
- Actually, It's a Very Prestigious Award.
- Unknown Unknowns
- Two Items From Page 25 of Your Chicago Sun-Times
- Creepy Pete Supports Spying on 6th District Reside...
- The NSA Is Building a Database of Every Phone Call...
- "Forbid it, Almighty God!"
- Yes, That's A Two.
- Are We Doomed?
- Kids These Days...
- an·gry -- adj., Feeling or showing anger; incensed...
- Who's Paying for the GOP Tax Cuts for the Mega-Ric...
- Don't Believe The Hype
- Denny's Priorities: Rich Men and Wall Street Firs...
- XVP is the Job for Me!
- Rahm: No Regrets on IL-6 Primary
- Today is the BIG DAY!
- No Recounts for DuPage County
- Obama, America Step Up Against Genocide
- "Dying is Easy -- Comedy is Hard."
- Well, I guess that explains some things...
- I don't think people who make fun of me are funny ...
- The Immigration Question
- "Kill 'Em All -- Let God Sort 'Em Out"
- They'd never do that... Right?
- "And all the sinners -- saints."
- "Our immigration laws are absurd."
- "My fellow Americans: Major combat operations in I...
- ▼ May (50)
- ► 2005 (555)