Innocence Project Blog:
An exhaustive report released today by the New Yorker finds that Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 in Texas for murders he didn’t commit. The report follows years of investigation into the case, and concludes that the arson analysis used to convict Willingham was wrong — and that none of the other evidence used to convict Willingham was valid.
The findings in the New Yorker report and other evaluations of Willingham’s case have brought renewed calls for a moratorium on executions and comprehensive reforms of forensic science in the United States.
Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck writes in the Huffington Post today that this case should lead to sweeping improvements in the forensic sciences:
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.
The focus turns to how we can stop it from happening again. As long as our system of justice makes mistakes — including the ultimate mistake — we cannot continue executing people.
Today’s 16,000-word New Yorker story comes a week after independent arson expert Craig Beyler submitted his report to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which is conducting a review of Willingham’s conviction. Beyler, like a panel of national arson experts assembled three years ago by the Innocence Project, found that the science used to convict Willingham was wrong. The Texas Forensic Science Commission announced that it is reviewing Beyler’s report and will release its conclusions next year.