Saturday, August 14, 2010


"The moment of revelation occurred when Scheck asked how Willingham, who had lost his family to the fire, must have felt to hear the horrific allegations made against him on the basis of the bogus evidence, "and nobody pays any attention to it as he gets executed."

"It's the Dreyfus Affair, and you all know what that is," Scheck continued. "It's the Dreyfus Affair of the United States."


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."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I experienced a profound moment of revelation earlier this week during a panel on the subject matter of wrongful convictions at the conference of the National Association of Criminal defence lawyers (NACDL) which is taking place in Toronto.

Barry Scheck, the legendary "innocence" lawyer was speaking extemporaneously about "the duty to correct" as the panel drew to an end.

I could sense the anger and dismay building up in Scheck as he began talking about the infamous case" of Cameron Todd Willingham, "who was executed by Governor Perry in 2004 in Texas notwithstanding the fact that there was an affidavit from an expert on his desk saying all the evidence used to convict Willingham of the arson murder of his children was based on bogus science."

Scheck bristled over the fact that although the Texas Fire Marshall's office and other authorities had known that this kind of testimony was flawed for over a decade before Willingham was executed, "nobody cared about this." The Board of Pardons and Parole didn't care. Governor Rick Perry didn't care. The Forensic Science Commission became enmired in politics and shied away from pronouncing the evidence used to execute Willingham "unreliable" and looking back at the old cases.

Scheck could barely hide his disbelief as he described the testimony of the expert witness for the prosecution "who gets on the stand and testifies, "I know. The fire tells me the truth the fire never lies," and tells the Court, "that man intended to kill his children." "That's testimony?" Scheck exclaimed.

The moment of revelation occurred when Scheck asked how Willingham, who had lost his family to the fire, must have felt to hear the horrific allegations made against him on the basis of the bogus evidence, "and nobody pays any attention to it as he gets executed."

"It's the Dreyfus Affair, and you all know what that is," Scheck continued. "It's the Dreyfus AffaIr of the United States.

I totally agree.

The bigoted miscarriage of justice knowingly inflicted by the French government on an honourable officer falsely accused of treason caused the French people to look deeply into their souls and confront the ugliness that was lurking there.

Similarly, the abject refusal of the government of Texas to accept the fact that it executed an innocent man - aggravated by the State's effort to prevent the truth from coming out even at the expense of other American's who may, like Willingham, have been convicted by bogus arson "science" - will have Americans examining their own souls (as to why they didn't care more) and re-appraising their criminal justice system.


NOTE TO READERS: 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 accessed at:

For a breakdown of some of the cases, issues and controversies this Blog is currently following, please turn to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;;