Cameron Todd Willingham and How To Prevent Another Wrongful Execution
Last week we wrote about the new forensic report establishing that the fire for which Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas was not arson, but accidentally set. Texas now has the dishonor, in addition to being the state that executes the most people, of being the first state we know of that has executed an innocent person.
This week's New Yorker has a must-read article on the case by David Grann.
An extraordinary new investigative report in the New Yorker shows that Willingham was telling the truth. He was innocent. David Grann's report, in the September 7 issue, exhaustively deconstructs every aspect of the case and shows that none of the evidence used to convict Willingham was valid. Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1974, Grann's report constitutes the strongest case on record in this country that an innocent man was executed.
....The state forensic commission in Texas is still finishing its work on Willingham's case, but David Grann's New Yorker article examines the entire case, including the jailhouse informant who plainly gave false testimony and the circumstantial evidence, flimsy in the first place, that was not what it appeared to be to the jury. After reading Grann's report, fair-minded people will know beyond a reasonable doubt that an innocent person was executed.
...Whether our criminal justice system has executed an innocent man should no longer be an open question. We don't know how often it happens, but we know it has happened. Cameron Todd Willingham's case proves that.
What we need to prevent it from happening again:
The Innocence Project has found that forensic science problems were a factor in 50 percent of all wrongful convictions that were later overturned with DNA testing. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that many forensic disciplines are not rooted in solid science. The report called on Congress to create a National Institute of Forensic Science to set nationwide standards and ensure that evidence used in criminal cases is sufficiently scientific. This can be done cost-effectively and without creating a large bureaucracy.
|< Sunday Night Open Thread | Bill Bradley's "Grand Compromise" >|