Tuesday, October 26, 2010


"This month, a hearing was underway in Austin, Texas, to decide if the state wrongfully executed a man convicted of setting his house afire in a blaze which killed his three toddler daughters. Cameron Willingham was executed in 2004 -- two fire experts testified at the hearing that the fire was likely due to faulty wiring and not arson.

Canada must never go there. Capital punishment should not even be up for debate in this country."



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 were 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. Legendary "Innocence" lawyer Barry Scheck asked participants at a conference of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers held in Toronto in August, 2010, 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. Luke Power's music video "Texas Death Row Blues," can be found at:


"Extreme cases make bad law, and that's why the double-murder case of Col. Russell Williams should not be regarded as an impetus for pondering a return to capital punishment in Canada," the Calgary Herald editorial published earlier today under the heading, "Death to this debate."

"Last week, as the details of Williams' horrific crimes were read into the record prior to his sentencing, William Mullins-Johnson, of Sault Ste. Marie, was awarded $4.25 million in compensation for the wrongful first-degree murder conviction which saw him spend more than 12 years behind bars, in connection with the death of his four-year-old niece, the editorial continues.

"One need only run down the list of miscarriages of justice to see why the death penalty must not be brought back. David Milgaard -- 23 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in the death of Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller. Thomas Sophonow -- four years in prison and the ordeal of three trials, wrongfully convicted in the 1981 slaying of 16-year-old Winnipeg doughnut shop clerk Barbara Stoppel. Guy-Paul Morin -- first acquitted and then, at a re-trial, sentenced to life in prison for the 1984 death of Christine Jessop, and later exonerated by DNA evidence. Donald Marshall, Jr. -- wrongfully convicted of killing his friend, Sandy Seale, in Sydney, N.S. There are others.

If Canada had the death penalty, these innocent victims of miscarriages of justice, could be dead. The presence, for life, in our prisons of people like Williams, Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo, have some Canadians clamouring for a return to capital punishment. The presence of those others, wrongfully convicted, is a reminder that Canada should never return to the days when capital punishment was law in this land.

In January 2000, then-Governor George Ryan of Illinois declared a moratorium on the death penalty. He said: "I now favour a moratorium, because I have grave concerns about our state's shameful record of convicting innocent people and putting them on death row . . . I cannot support a system, which, in its administration, has proven to be so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare, the state's taking of innocent life. Thirteen people have been found to have been wrongfully convicted."

Thirteen people were nearly executed in Illinois for crimes they did not commit. Nor is there a utilitarian argument for capital punishment based solely on cost. Public Safety Canada says the annual cost of maintaining a prisoner in a maximum security facility is $147,135. Compare that to the astronomical court costs of appeal after appeal which is typical of a death-row inmate fighting to save himself from a date with the executioner.

This month, a hearing was underway in Austin, Texas, to decide if the state wrongfully executed a man convicted of setting his house afire in a blaze which killed his three toddler daughters. Cameron Willingham was executed in 2004 -- two fire experts testified at the hearing that the fire was likely due to faulty wiring and not arson.

Canada must never go there. Capital punishment should not even be up for debate in this country."


The editorial can be found at:



PUBLISHER'S NOTE: 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; hlevy15@gmail.com;