Thursday, October 14, 2010


"The hearing was put on hold last week after District Judge Charlie Baird said he would wait for lawyers representing Willingham's surviving relatives to respond to a motion – from Navarro County District Attorney Lowell Thompson – seeking to recuse Baird from hearing the case at all. Baird is likely to rule today on that motion. (Regardless of whether he grants or denies the motion, Baird's decision will move forward to the region's presiding judge, Williamson County Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, for review.)"



BACKGROUND OF REVIEW: District Judge Charlie Baird agreed to hold the unprecedented two-day hearing to consider evidence on whether Cameron Todd Willing­ham was actually innocent of and executed for a crime that never occurred. Willingham was executed in 2004 in connection with a fire in his home in Corsicana that claimed the lives of his three young children. State officials – including the State Fire Marshal's Office – concluded that the 1991 fire had been deliberately set by Willingham; Willing­ham maintained his innocence, including in his last words before death...Baird, who will retire at the end of the year, will consider testimony and evidence in the case on Oct. 6 and 7. Baird last year presided over the state's first posthumous hearing in the case of Tim Cole.

BACKGROUND OF WILLINGHAM CASE: (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:


"An inquiry into whether Texas executed an innocent man in 2004 when it put to death Cameron Todd Willingham is set to resume today (Thursday)," the story by Austin Chronicle reporter Jordan Smith, published earliertoday under the heading, "Baird To Rule on Recusal From Willingham Hearing," begins.

"The hearing was put on hold last week after District Judge Charlie Baird said he would wait for lawyers representing Willingham's surviving relatives to respond to a motion – from Navarro County District Attorney Lowell Thompson – seeking to recuse Baird from hearing the case at all," the story continues.

"Baird is likely to rule today on that motion. (Regardless of whether he grants or denies the motion, Baird's decision will move forward to the region's presiding judge, Williamson County Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, for review.)

Willingham was put to death for the 1991 arson-murder of his three young children in Corsicana. Willingham maintained his innocence, and since his death, the case has been plagued with questions regarding whether the fire-science used to convict him was flawed and outdated. To date, nine fire experts have weighed in to say the science used by Corsicana fire officials and the Texas fire marshal was indeed outdated. Late last month Willingham's surviving relatives – including his mother, Eugenia – filed a petition in Baird's court asking for him to declare Willingham actually innocent, thus restoring his reputation. The petition also asks Baird to open a court of inquiry to determine whether various unnamed state officials (likely including the Fire Marshal's Office, Gov. Rick Perry, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles) committed official oppression by failing to act – prior to Willingham's execution – on information that challenged the science used to convict him. (Baird's hearing is designed to determine whether there is actually enough evidence to call for a formal court of inquiry.)

The inquiry requested by Willingham's family is like that requested by the family of Timothy Cole, who died in prison before he could be cleared for a Lubbock rape he did not commit. After two days of testimony in that case, Baird concluded last year that Cole was, in fact, innocent.

In the motion filed Oct. 4, Thompson – who inherited the controversy over the capital murder case – argues that Baird should be recused in part because he heard an appeal of Willingham's case when he was a judge on Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals. There, Baird actually voted with the majority to uphold the conviction. Alternately, Thompson argues that Baird might not be impartial because comments on the Austin American-Statesman's website have suggested that Baird is biased in favor of defendants and that Baird has also been given the Courage Award by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

One thing seems certain: If the hearing does go forward today, it most certainly won't include any official input from Perry's folks. Baird said in court Oct. 6 that upon receiving the Willingham petition he sent letters to the parties named in it, inviting them to participate in the hearing. All but Thompson declined, including Perry's office, which concluded not only that "convicted murderer" Willingham has already had plenty due process but also that Willingham's family's request for him to be declared wrongfully convicted is "inexplicable." According to Perry's general counsel, Caren Bur­bach, there is no "legal basis" for such a declaration – though it would in fact be like the one Baird made in the Cole case, as Baird acknowledged last week. "I will say this: These are pretty much the same proceedings we engaged in on behalf of Tim Cole," Baird said, "which the governor later recognized and who was posthumously pardoned by the governor.""


The story 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;;