I am definitely late to this story, but David Grann’s article about the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham suggests how an inadequate justice system cannot be trusted with putting people to death.
Now it appears that Rick Perry has failed to reappoint some key officials on a science review panel, derailing their report until after the primaries. Grits for Breakfast gives a rundown and so does Chuck Kuffner here and here.
Glenn W. Smith speculates that Rick Perry might have violated federal law and may in fact result in Texas losing federal funding. (in Dogcanyon, a new Texas opinion blog).
The Innocence Project provides a brief summary of the case.
Here is a report from arson expert Craig Beylor (PDF, p52)
The investigations of the Willis and Willingham fires did not comport with either the modern standard of care expressed by NFPA 921, or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980–1992. The investigators had poor understandings of fire science and failed to acknowledge or apply the contemporaneous understanding of the limitations of fire indicators. Their methodologies did not comport with the scientific method or the process of elimination. A finding of arson could not be sustained based upon the standard of care expressed by NFPA 921, or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980–1992.
I realize that this story is tangled up with Rick Perry’s incompetent leadership, but this mishap only underscores how state criminal systems cannot be trusted to handle capitol murder cases.
The most amazing thing is that the Board of Pardon and Parole and the governor’s office had received a considerable refutation by a national expert of the arson testimony before the execution was to take place, and yet they turned a blind eye to it.
(In the interest of fairness, here is a response from the City of Corsicana’s DA’s office and a response to Corsicana’s response from Grits for Breakfast.