The Innocence Project claims that the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham was a mistake.
This atrocity, that happens to more people than the justice system is willing to admit, is taking execution in this country into question. Especially after a review of death row inmates wrongly executed.
Imagine the emotional trauma of family and friends who knew Willingham was innocent, enduring an execution of a man they loved, and could do nothing.
Willingham was convicted of allegedly setting a fire that killed his three young daughters 13 years earlier. He always claimed he was innocent, and the arson investigation used to convict him was questioned by leading experts before Willingham was executed – then why was he executed?
Since 2004, further evidence in the case has led to the unavoidable conclusion that Willingham did not set the fire for which he was executed. He was innocent.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission issued its report on the convictions of Cameron Todd Willingham and Ernest Willis on April 15, 2011 recommending more education and training for fire investigators and implementing procedures to review old cases (the commission issued an addendum to the report on October 28, 2011.)
Willingham was sentenced to death in 1992 after being convicted of murder based on an arson analysis that was later discredited, as well as testimony from a jailhouse informant.
However, a note that was found in the case file strongly suggests that the prosecutor most likely covered up a deal he made with the informant, Johnny Webb, who claimed Willingham had confessed to him.
What is most frustrating is that in 2004 a prosecutor argued that Webb’s testimony was enough to prove his guilt, after the arson analysis was found to be faulty and wasn’t enough to convict Willingham.
Recently, lawyers seeking a posthumous pardon for Willingham claim the inmate who provided testimony did so to gain a reduced sentence, the New York Times reported.
If that had proved to be the case in the lead up to Willingham’s execution, it could have been enough to clear him of guilt.
‘It’s astonishing that 10 years after Todd Willingham was executed we are still uncovering evidence showing what a grave injustice this case represents,’ Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, which is working on the case, said.
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