Wednesday, August 26, 2009



Background: (Wikipedia); Cameron Todd Willingham (January 9, 1968 – February 17, 2004), born in Carter County, Oklahoma, was sentenced to death by the state of Texas for murdering his three daughters—two year old Amber Louise Kuykendall, and one year old twins Karmon Diane Willingham and Kameron Marie Willingham— by setting his house on fire. The fire occurred on December 23, 1991 in Corsicana, Texas. Lighter fluid was kept on the front porch of Willingham’s house as evidenced by a melted container found there. Some of this fluid may have entered the front doorway of the house carried along by fire hose water. It was alleged this fluid was deliberately poured to start the fire and that Willingham chose this entrance way so as to impede rescue attempts. The prosecution also used other arson theories that have since been brought into question. In addition to the arson evidence, a jailhouse informant claimed Willingham confessed that he set the fire to hide his wife's physical abuse of the girls, although the girls showed no other injuries besides those caused by the fire. Neighbors also testified that Willingham did not try hard enough to save his children. They allege he "crouched down" in his front yard and watched the house burn for a period of time without attempting to enter the home or go to neighbors for help or request they call firefighters. He claimed that he tried to go back into the house but it was "too hot". As firefighters arrived, however, he rushed towards the garage and pushed his car away from the burning building, requesting firefighters do the same rather than put out the fire. After the fire, Willingham showed no emotion at the death of his children and spent the next day sorting through the debris, laughing and playing music. He expressed anger after finding his dartboard burned in the fire. Firefighters and other witnesses found him suspicious of how he reacted during and after the fire. Willingham was charged with murder on January 8, 1992. During his trial in August 1992, he was offered a life term in exchange for a guilty plea, which he turned down insisting he was innocent. After his conviction, he and his wife divorced. She later stated that she believed that Willingham was guilty. Prosecutors alleged this was part of a pattern of behavior intended to rid himself of his children. Willingham had a history of committing crimes, including burglary, grand larceny and car theft. There was also an incident when he beat his pregnant wife over the stomach with a telephone to induce a miscarriage. When asked if he had a final statement, Willingham said: "Yeah. The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man - convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return - so the earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby." However, his final words were directed at his ex-wife, Stacy Willingham. He turned to her and said "I hope you rot in hell, bitch" several times while attempting to extend his middle finger in an obscene gesture. His ex-wife did not show any reaction to this. He was executed by lethal injection on February 17, 2004. Subsequent to that date, persistent questions have been raised as to the accuracy of the forensic evidence used in the conviction, specifically, whether it can be proven that an accelerant (such as the lighter fluid mentioned above) was used to start the fatal fire. Fire investigator Gerald L. Hurst reviewed the case documents including the trial transcriptions and an hour-long videotape of the aftermath of the fire scene. Hurst said, "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire."


The entire Beyler report can be found at the following address:

It's called: ""Analysis of the Fire Investigation; Methods and Procedures Used in the Criminal Arson Cases Against Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham."

Reporter Chuck Lindell's August 25, 2009, accompanying story, under the heading, "Execution based on bad investigation, report finds," is insightful."

"The fatal house fire that led Texas to execute Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 was erroneously ruled to be arson by fire investigators who relied on bad science, unproven theories and personal bias, a state-funded analysis concludes," the story begins.

"The analysis, prepared by nationally known fire scientist Craig Beyler, raises the possibility that Willingham did not commit the crime for which he was executed — a 1991 arson fire that killed his three young children in the Corsicana home they shared," it continues.

"Beyler’s report, requested by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, listed more than a dozen instances of improper analysis and mistaken conclusions provided by two fire officials during Willingham’s capital murder trial.

Most damaging was testimony that burn patterns on the home’s floors proved that an accelerant was used to start three different, fast-burning fires that doomed the children — a conclusion that is not supported by the facts or by fundamental scientific analysis, Beyler concluded.

“The investigators had poor understandings of fire science,” he wrote.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission, created in 2005 to investigate allegations of scientific negligence or misconduct, will use Beyler’s analysis to draft its report on the Willingham fire. That document is expected in the first half of 2010.

This story can be found at: