Texas Court of Inquiry Begins Exploring Whether Executed Man Was Innocent

Lawyers for Cameron Todd Willingham’s family recently presented expert testimony at a court of inquiry in Texas to determine whether Willingham was wrongfully convicted and executed for starting a fire that killed his children. The lawyers presented testimony from nine experts who have reviewed evidence presented by fire marshals and found “many critical errors,” as one report stated. Gerald Hurst, who published a report regarding the evidence in the case, argued that the evidence actually suggests that the fire was accidental. John Lentini, another fire expert, debunked the fire marshal’s testimony at the original trial that Willingham spread accelerants to fuel the fire. Lentini said that no such chemicals were found and that much of the fire marshal’s analysis of the evidence did not meet [arson] standards of 1991. At the end of the first day of the hearings, the Texas Third Court of Appeals ordered the presiding judge not to hold further proceedings or issue rulings. The appeals court has been asked to determine whether a court of inquiry is the proper venue for this hearing and whether the presiding judge, Charles Baird, should be conducting the hearing.

(J. Schwartz, “Family’s Effort to Clear Name Frames Debate on Executions,” New York Times, October 14, 2010). Read more about Cameron Todd Willingham. See Innocence.