Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Kill 'Em All -- Let God Sort 'Em Out"

From your Chicago Tribune:
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.

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."
Local Note: Judy Baar Topinka, Republican candidate for governor, would have Illinois rejoin Texas in the killing business.

1 comment:

The Liberal Monkey said...

This sickens me.

This morning on WGN News it was said that nobody ever killed on death row has been proven to be innocent, a statement that is truly debatable.


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