COMMENTARY: "Talking us to death," by Taylor Auten, published by The Brown Political Review on October 3, 2016. ( Brown Political Review is Brown University’s entirely student-written and student-run, nonpartisan magazine for political journalism. Founded in 2012, BPR aims to bring high-quality reporting on regional, national and international politics to Brown, the Providence community and beyond. Brown Political Review publishes a print magazine four times a year and updates this website daily with new articles and multimedia content. The organization is home to a staff of over 100 students working in all aspects of magazine production.BPR is grateful for the support of the Political Theory Project, an interdisciplinary program at Brown University that supports faculty associates, postdoctoral associates and undergraduate groups in an effort to promote vibrant and rigorous discourse in academics and politics."
GIST: “The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man — convicted of a crime I did not commit.” These were some of the last words Cameron Todd Willingham spoke right before he was executed by lethal injection on February 17, 2004. As it turns out, Willingham was right. Six years after his execution, the evidence proving Willingham’s innocence was finally fully compiled. After being presented the evidence, Judge Charlie Baird wrote an order that would have declared Willingham an innocent man if it had been released before his death. This story, among others, raises an important question: Why are we not talking about the death penalty? In a system where a man like Willingham can be retroactively and incontrovertibly proven innocent, how can a contentious topic like the death penalty stray from the public’s eye? Even the staunchest supporters of the death penalty can see the problem with an innocent man being legally executed. Of course, to think that years later many Americans would still be talking about the Willingham news is naïve, but this example merely highlights one side of the multifaceted problem that is capital punishment.
See also the Innocent Project case summary - Cameron Todd Willingham: Wrongfully convicted and executed in Texas - at the link below: "On December 23, 1991, a fire destroyed the Corsicana, Texas, home Cameron Todd Willingham shared with his wife and three daughters, killing the three girls. Willingham, who was asleep when the fire started, survived. His wife was at the Salvation Army buying Christmas presents for the girls. At Willingham’s 1992 trial, prosecutors claimed he intentionally set fire to his home in order to kill his own children. Willingham said he was asleep in the home when the fire started and always maintained his innocence. He was convicted based on the testimony of forensic experts who said they had determined that the fire was intentionally set and a jailhouse informant who said Willingham had confessed to him. On October 29, 1992, he was sentenced to death. ( Download the full trial transcripts here .) Thirteen years later, in the days leading up to Willingham’s execution, his attorneys sent the governor and the Board of Pardon and Parole a report from Gerald Hurst , a nationally recognized arson expert, saying that Willingham’s conviction was based on erroneous forensic analysis. Documents obtained by the Innocence Project show that state officials received that report but apparently did not act on it. Willingham was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville on February 17, 2004. Months after Willingham was executed, the Chicago Tribune published an investigative report that raised questions about the forensic analysis. The Innocence Project assembled five of the nation’s leading independent arson experts to review the evidence in the case, and this prestigious group issued a 48-page report finding that none of the scientific analysis used to convict Willingham was valid. In 2006, the Innocence Project formally submitted the case to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, asking the empowered state entity to launch a full investigation. Along with the Willingham case, the Innocence Project submitted information about another arson case in Texas where identical evidence was used to send another man to death row. In that case, Ernest Willis was exonerated and freed from prison because the forensic evidence was not valid. In 2008, the Texas Forensic Science Commission agreed to investigate the case. The panel’s review was interrupted several times over the last two years, however, and continues today. In 2009, an arson expert hired by the commission issued a report finding that experts who testified at Willingham’s trial should have known it was wrong at the time. Days before the expert was set to testify, however, Gov. Rick Perry replaced key members of the panel, delayed the investigation for months. An investigative report in the September 7, 2009, issue of the New Yorker deconstructs every facet of the state’s case against Willingham. The 16,000-word article by David Grann shows that all of the evidence used against Willingham was invalid, including the forensic analysis, the informant’s testimony, other witness testimony and additional circumstantial evidence."
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.