Resource Archive for the case of Cameron Todd Willingham

Reports Regarding the Reliability of Evidence

  • Analysis of the Fire Investigation Methods and Procedures Used in the Criminal Arson Cases against Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham”- Craig L. Beyler, Ph.D., published August 17, 2009 for the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Details the testimonies and forensic work conducted in the Willingham case which led to his conviction and execution. Dr. Beyler’s findings suggest the fire leading to the death of Willingham’s children was not in fact arson.
  • Report on the Peer Review on the Expert Testimony in the Cases of State of Texas v. Cameron Todd Willingham and State of Texas v Ernest Ray Willis”- Published in the Spring of 2006, this report, commissioned by the Innocence Project, identifies and details the factors that led to the Willingham and Willis convictions. This report was a secondary review, initiated after the first review had been compiled and presented to the Governor prior to Willingham’s execution in early 2004.

Investigations Regarding the Event Leading to Execution

  • Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?”- New Yorker article by David Grann, September 7, 2009. An extensive 16,000-word expose regarding the events leading up to Willingham’s sentence, his time spent on death row, and his execution. This piece supplies an especially human element to Willingham and those involved in and around the investigation.
  • “Ask the Author Live: David Grann”- A follow-up interview with New Yorker journalist David Grann in response to his piece “Trial by Fire” (see above). The interview was held on August 31 2009 and posts detailed questions and responses regarding the Willingham case, the whereabouts of involved individuals, and the author’s feelings toward the criminal justice system.
  • Man executed on disproved forensics, Fire that killed his 3 children could have been accidental”-Chicago Tribune article by Steve Mills and Maurice Possley, published December 9, 2004. The original editorial piece which revisited the Willingham case months after his execution. The investigative journalists detail the events leading up to Willingham’s execution from a postmortem perspective and argue that the information provided in fire expert Gerald Hurst’s report was wrongfully ignored.,0,7443588,full.story

Media Coverage of the Willingham Case

  • Expert says fire for which father was executed was not arson”-a Chicago Tribune article by Steve Mills published August 25, 2009. A follow-up piece to the original Tribune investigative report which suggested Willingham’s wrongful execution. The piece covers the extensive list of forensic evidence, including credible sources, which point to Willingham’s innocence.,0,5812073.story
  • Wrongly Executed?”- a Nightline special report detailing the Cameron Todd Willingham case and the possibility of Willingham’s wrongful execution.
  • Man convicted of murder, executed over arson that wasn’t, scientist says”- an Austin American-Statesman article by Chuck Lindell, dated August 26, 2009, detailing the specifics addressed in the report submitted by Dr. Craig Beyler to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, as well as the implication such a report could have for the State of Texas in regards to faulty forensics leading to wrongful convictions and executions.
  • Up in smoke”- An article for the Houston Chronicle, published September 1, 2009, detailing the Willingham case in light of new information provided by the David Grann investigative report and Byler’s fire report. The Chronicle article suggests alternatives for the commission which may prevent future cases such as Willingham’s.
  • Texas May Have Executed Innocent Man”-a National Public Radio interview with journalist David Grann, conducted for the show “All Things Considered” on September 2, 2009. In the interview, Grann details the findings of his investigative report, arguing that the forensic science used in the Willingham case was based on outdated forensic “folklore” which resulted in the possible execution of a “legally and factually innocent person.”
  • Report: Faulty fire investigation led to execution”- an Associated Press piece by Jamie Stengel, dated August 26, 2009. Address the released report by Dr. Beyler for the Texas Forensic Science Commission, with reference to scientific findings by the Innocence Project in 2005 as well as comments by members of Willingham’s family.
  • Report faults Texas men’s arson convictions”- Dallas Morning News report by Christy Hoppe, published August 26, 2009. This news report addresses the surrounding doubt in Willingham’s conviction and execution, highlighting the inconsistencies relating to the manner in which Willingham’s appeal was denied when just months later a fellow death row inmate was released from prison, on similar charges, when a separate Beyler report advised that the forensics used were faulty.

Op-Ed and Editorials

  • Innocent But Dead”- an Op-Ed from Bob Herbert for the New York Times, August 31, 2009. A more contextual, fact-based editorial, relating to the events leading up to the Willingham fire, with reference to the original report published by Gerald Hurst. Also included are Dr. Craig Beyler’s most recent scientific findings, arguing of a wrongful execution.
  • Reasonable Doubt (the court of public opinion)”- This piece, by Aaron Haas for the San Antonio Current (September 16, 2009), discusses the various inconsistencies surrounding the administration of the death penalty, including the last-minute appeal made by fire expert Gerald Hurst on behalf of Todd Willingham. The piece details the history of capital punishment since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976 with specific regard to the ways in which the issue has grown to be viewed as a problem by both those who support and those who oppose it.
  • Not Innocent Enough”- Slate Magazine article by Dahlia Lithwick posted September 5, 2009. This piece exposes the Constitutional and legal implications of the Willingham case in light of the New Yorker article “Trial by Fire” and the Byler. Ms. Lithwick argues that despite the potential proposed by a wrongful conviction and execution of Willingham, the current legal system as overseen by the United States Supreme Court will not impose a change to the current criminal justice system.
  • Innocent, but Executed” – a Huffington Post opinion article by columnist Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, August 30 2009. This piece examines the validity of Willingham’s execution in light of the New Yorker investigation by David Grann, and calls for an overhaul of the criminal justice system to prevent any future faulty convictions or executions.
  • Error-prone death penalty system ensnares innocent”- A piece written in the September 18, 2009 issue of the Houston Chronicle by American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project directors which details a number of state executions that, like Willingham, are believed to have been conducted despite substantial evidence suggesting innocence.
  • Willingham guilt never in doubt”- Guest Commentary by the Hon. John Jackson for the Corsicana Daily Sun, August 28, 2009. An opposition piece to the current investigation suggesting innocence, Judge Jackson, who was a prosecutor in the case, argues for Willingham’s guilt regardless of flawed forensic work.
  • David Grann: The Prosecution Defends Itself”-a rebuttal by New Yorker writer David Grann, September 4, 2009, in response to Judge Jackson’s editorial in the Corsicana Daily Sun. Grann reiterates Willingham’s innocence though the work uncovered in his investigative report, alongside which he negates every additional argument Jackson claimed resulted in Willingham’s guilt, despite “undeniably flawed” forensics.
  • “A lethal failure of justice in Texas”– An opinion piece written for My San Antonio News, September 21, 2009, which addresses the Willingham case in light of the New Yorker article, and draws attention to the possible implications of Texas executing an innocent man.
  • “Making forensic science scientific”- An editorial in the Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2009, advocating for the nees of a national board of forensic science, to be administered by Congress, in an effort to establish scientific standards by which investigations should be handled to prevent further possibilities for wrongful sentencing like that in the Willingham case.,0,2528495.story

Willingham and the Governor

  • Perry defends disputed ’04 execution of Corsicana man”-This article for The Dallas Morning News, September 19, 2009, reports the first response given by Texas Governor Rick Perry in regards to recent evidence which suggests the governor knowingly allowed the lethal injection of an innocent man. The article additionally details the Willingham case from the fire accident that led to Willingham’s arrest, through the recently released New Yorker article.
  • “Statement from Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project”– The following is The Innocence Project’s official response to statements of no wrongdoing by Governor Perry despite consistent, independent expert reports which indicate that the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham of arson was based on scientific inconsistencies. Scheck argues that the United States should establish a regulatory body for the administration of forensic science standards.
  • “County forensic examiner caught up in controversy over 2004 execution”– South Texas news source, The Monitor, gives a comprehensive report regarding the recent replacement of three Texas Forensic Science Commission members. The committee was reorganized by Governor Rick Perry two days before a hearing on the arson evidence used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham. This article provides information on the individuals who will be replacing the former board members and the implications for the governor and the commission.
  • Why Did Texas Gut Its Forensics Commission?”– an article issued by Time magazine, October 6, 2009, which addresses the questions surrounding Texas Governor Rick Perry’s last minute decision to replace three members from the Texas Forensic Science Commission, including Chairman Sam Basset. The change in membership came just two days before the committee was to hear testimony from forensic expert Craig Beyler.,8599,1927855,00.html?xid=rss-topstor