Sep 14, 2009
Five years after a man was executed by the state of Texas, a special investigation by the state found there was mishandling of forensic evidence. The investigation concluded there was no scientific basis for finding Cameron Todd Willingham guilty of arson. In 1991, this false evidence had been used to convict him of setting fire to his home in Corsicana, Texas, killing his three children.
Unfortunately for Willingham, the exoneration comes too late.
The night of the fire, Willingham had tried to rescue his children. He was driven back by smoke and flames so fierce that his hair caught on fire. When he saw flames leaping out of the windows of his children’s room, he tried so hard to get back in the burning house that police had to restrain and handcuff him.
Neighbors described Willingham that night as hysterical, screaming, “My babies are burning up.” But state prosecutors produced eyewitnesses at trial to falsely testify Willingham had behaved “oddly” and did not make an effort to save his kids. They also brought forth testimony from a jailhouse snitch, Johnny Webb, a long-term drug abuser who later admitted being doped up.
Only weeks before Willingham’s execution, renowned scientist and arson investigator Gerald Hurst had reviewed the evidence. Hurst began refuting every indication of arson. But the courts ignored Hurst’s warnings and proceeded with Willingham’s execution anyway.
This is a simple case of cold-blooded murder by the police, prosecutors and the courts. What better argument can there be for abolishing the death penalty?