Friday, October 4, 2013

Sonia Cacy; Cameron Todd Willingham; Texas; Two decades after she was convicted of murdering her uncle, the arson "science" used to convict her has been rejected by the Science Advisory panal set up by the State Fire Marshall's Office; Cameron Todd Willingham wrongful execution case seen as factor in placing fire investigations in Texas under heightened criticism; Claims Journal; (Associated Press);

STORY: "Texas fire review panel flags murder case," by Nomaan Merchant (Associated Press), published by the Claims Journal  on October 2, 2013.

GIST: "Two decades after she was convicted of murdering her uncle by setting him on fire, a Texas woman has the backing of a state panel that examines arson investigations for problems. Sonia Cacy was convicted of murder for the 1991 death of her uncle, Bill Richardson, in their home in the West Texas city of Fort Stockton. A doctor who examined Richardson’s body testified he was alive when the fire started. Another expert said he thought an accelerant was used in the blaze. But members of the Science Advisory Workgroup, established by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, say those claims are inaccurate. Fire Marshal Chris Connealy sent an August letter to Pecos County prosecutors saying the investigation used at trial cannot be supported under “present day scientific standards.” The letter says the fire could not have been judged as caused by gasoline under current lab standards, nor could Richardson have been judged to have been alive when the fire ignited. Some older arson cases are coming under scrutiny as fire investigation science has changed. The State Fire Marshal’s office is working with outside experts and wrongful-conviction advocates to look at potentially problematic cases – a rare collaboration between officials who are often at odds. The panel, which first convened in January, has flagged a Waco-area man’s murder conviction for setting his house on fire and killing his two stepsons, as well as a Houston-area man’s arson conviction.........Fire investigations in Texas have come under heightened criticism from wrongful-conviction advocates, particularly after the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was condemned for a deadly house fire that killed his three daughters. Questions and publicity from the Willingham case drove a state review and several recommendations for improved use of fire science.

The entire story can be found at:

See Innocence Project post: "The Innocence Project of Texas has appealed Cacy’s conviction and a hearing is expected early next year. "


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