A forensic panel in Texas has been formed to study wrongful convictions in arson cases. Criminal watchdogs in the state intend to tell the top forensic panel that Texas has falsely convicted about six persons of arson based on outdated science.
Jeff Blackburn, chief Counsel for Texas’ Innocent Project, said, “We talking about almost six cases.”
Blackburn will speak to the Texas Forensic Science Commission in Austin and present a report on hundreds of arson convictions. He will be pointing to examples of junk science similar to the method which eventually convicted Cameron Todd Willingham of killing his children.
Willingham was executed in 2004.
Since his execution, controversy has surrounded the interpretation of the evidence used to convict him.
Originally criticized in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article, the story was the subject of a 2009 investigative report in The New Yorker.
In December, 2004, concerns about the so-called scientific evidence in the case began to appear. Maurice Possley and Steve Mills, journalists with Chicago Tribune, published an investigative anthology on the faults found in the forensic science; upon learning of Hurst’s report, Possley and Mills asked three fire experts, including John Lentini, to examine the original investigation. The experts concurred with Hurst’s report. Almost two years later, the Innocence Project contracted Lentini and three other top investigators to perform an independent review of the evidence in the case. The investigators found “each and each one” of the markers were “scientifically invalid.”
The warden told Willingham that it was time. Willingham, refused to cooperate and, laid down; he was carried into the death chamber. The room were green, and in the middle of the room, where the electric chair had sat, was a sheet covered gurney. Guards strapped Willingham down with belts, buckles cinched across his arms and legs and chest. A medical team then placed intravenous tubes into his arms. Each corrections officer played a distinct role in the procedure. No one person would feel responsible for killing.
In December, 2004, doubts about the scientific “proof” in the case began to rise. Maurice Possley and Steve Mills, of the Chicago Tribune, had published investigative articles on defects in forensic science; upon learning of Hurst’s report, Possley and Mills asked three fire experts, including John Lentini, to examine the original investigation. The experts concurred with Hurst’s report. Almost twenty-four months later, the Innocence Project enlisted Lentini and three other top investigators to perform a review of the evidence in the case. The forum determined that “each and every one” of the metrics of arson had been “scientifically shown to be nullified.”