Ultimately, in 2011, the panel did publish a report condemning the arson science used in the Willingham case and recommended a review of other cases investigated by the state fire marshal’s office. That led to discussion among the IPTX, the commission, and State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado — who before the commission had defended his office’s work in the Willingham case — about initiating such a review. Roughly two months later, however, Maldonado abruptly resigned his position,  leaving questions about whether the nascent review would continue. If defenders of faulty forensics thought the review would fold, they were wrong. With the installation of the new fire marshal, Chris Connealy, the review became a project of unprecedented cooperation between a state law enforcement agency and criminal justice reform advocates. That’s what led to Cacy’s exoneration.........In July 2014, Cacy went back to court in Fort Stockton, armed not only with the report from the review panel, but also with damning new evidence that the toxicologist who initially said he’d found traces of accelerant on Richardson’s clothes had failed to disclose that the clothing had been contaminated while in the lab. Additional analysis – including by a prosecution-hired expert – found no trace of accelerant on Richardson’s clothes. After hearing testimony, Judge Bert Richardson wrote a detailed report of his findings and legal conclusions, finally filed in June 2016, deciding that the evidence presented to him “supports a finding of actual innocence.” On Wednesday, the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. That ruling means that Cacy may now apply for compensation, and other benefits — like health care — for the nearly quarter of a century that she was wrongly labeled a murderer.

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