Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Arson 'science' (3); Cameron Todd Willingham: Texas; Bulletin: Eastern Courrier reports that his story will be told in a movie called 'Trial by Fire' - starring Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern.

STORY: "Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern to star in Trial By Fire," published by The Eastern Courrier on August 9, 2017. (Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern to star in Trial By Fire);

GIST: Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern have joined the cast of 'Trial By Fire'. The 27-year-old 'Money Monster' actor is expected to play death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of the arson deaths of his own three children, while Dern, 50, will play Elizabeth Gilbert, a Texan housewife who sets out to get him released as she believes he has been falsely convicted. The fact-based drama is being directed by Ed Zwick, who will also produce alongside Allyn Stewart & Kipp Nelson, and Alex Soros. The filmmaker became fascinated by the tale when he first red David Gann's Polk Award-winning 2009 article in The New Yorker. Zwick told Deadline: "From the moment I read David's brilliant reporting eight years ago, I have been possessed by this deeply moving, true story of injustice. "David Grann has been one of these caught-in-the-roller-of-his-typewriter guys, quietly doing great work, and now all these wonderful things are happening with his stories being made into movies, from 'Killers of the Flower Moon' to the Robert Redford piece 'Old Man and the Gun'. "The story was all there, with these two compelling characters. It is a remarkable story about people. Not just capital punishment but justice, which is a very important word right now. It has to have that pull to keep you pushing it up the hill this many years."........ Production is set to start on October 2 in Atlanta.

See Wikipedia entry at the link below: "In 2004, Gerald Hurst examined the arson evidence compiled by state deputy fire marshal Manuel Vasquez. Hurst individually discredited each piece of arson evidence, using publicly supported experiments backed by his re-creation of the elements in question, the most notable being the Lime Street fire, which created the unique 3-point burn patterns flashover.
This left only the chemical testing for accelerant. The front porch was the only place where an accelerant was verified by laboratory tests, and a photograph taken of the house before the fire showed that a charcoal grill was there. Hurst speculated that water sprayed by firefighters likely spread the lighter fluid from the melted container.[10] All twenty of the indications listed by Vasquez of an accelerant being used were rebutted by Hurst,[1] who concluded there was "no evidence of arson" — the same conclusion reached by other fire investigators.[citation needed] Hurst's report was sent to governor Rick Perry's office, as well as the Board of Pardons and Paroles along with Willingham's appeal for clemency.[21] Neither responded to Willingham's appeals. In response to allegations that he allowed the execution of an innocent man, Perry was quoted as stating "he was a wife beater".[citation needed] "The whole case was based on the purest form of junk science", Hurst later said. "There was no item of evidence that indicated arson". A spokeswoman for Governor Perry said he had weighed the "totality of the issues that led to (Willingham's) conviction". The spokeswoman added he was aware of a "claim of a reinterpretation of (the) arson testimony".[22] Since Willingham's execution, 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.[23] 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 in December 2004 that "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire."[7] In June 2009, the State of Texas ordered a re-examination of the case. In August 2009, eighteen years after the fire and five years after Willingham's execution, a report conducted by Dr. Craig Beyler, hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the case, found that "a finding of arson could not be sustained". Beyler said key testimony from a fire marshal at Willingham's trial was "hardly consistent with a scientific mind-set and is more characteristic of mystics or psychics".[1][2] The prosecutor, John Jackson, and the City of Corsicana have both released formal responses to the Beyler Report on the investigation of the fire that killed Willingham's three children at the behest of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.[24] Both were sharply critical of Beyler.[17] In a 2009 article discussing the reasons why Willingham was found guilty, Jackson recalled witness statements establishing that Willingham was overheard whispering to his deceased older daughter at the funeral home, "You're not the one who was supposed to die." Jackson stated that Willingham's comment was an indicator of guilt. In a rebuttal, Grann wrote, "If the arson investigators had concluded that there was no scientific evidence that a crime had occurred — as the top fire investigators in the country have now determined — Willingham's words at the funeral would surely be viewed as a sign that he was tormented by the fact that he had survived without saving his children."[15] An August 2009 Chicago Tribune investigative article concluded: "Over the past five years, the Willingham case has been reviewed by nine of the nation's top fire scientists — first for the Tribune, then for the Innocence Project, and now for the commission. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson. The only other evidence of significance against Willingham was twice-recanted testimony[1] by another inmate, who testified that Willingham had confessed to him. Jailhouse informants are viewed with skepticism in the justice system, so much so that some jurisdictions have restrictions against their use."[25] The Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to discuss the report by Beyler at a meeting on October 2, 2009, but two days before the meeting, Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chair of the commission and two other members. The new chair canceled the meeting, sparking accusations that Perry was interfering with the investigation[4] and using it for his own political advantage.[26] In October 2009, the city of Corsicana released two affidavits that included statements from Ronnie Kuykendall, the former brother-in-law of Willingham, originally made in 2004. According to the affidavits, Willingham's ex-wife had told Ronnie that Willingham confessed to her that he had set the fire. Stacy Kuykendall told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October 25, 2009[27] that during a final prison meeting just weeks before he was put to death, Willingham admitted setting the fire in response to Stacy's alleged threats of divorce the night before.[28] Journalists familiar with the case noted that Stacy Kuykendall's statement explicitly contradicted previous comments, legal testimony, and numerous published interviews before and after the execution.[29] This was also noted by Willingham's prosecutor, who said "It's hard for me to make heads or tails of anything she said or didn't say."[30] For example, earlier in 2009, Kuykendall supported her 2004 contradiction of her brother's affidavit (saying that there had been no confession) and had previously always maintained that things had been amicable between her and Willingham before the fire.[28] In 2010, she declared, "Todd murdered Amber, Karmon, and Kameron. He burnt them. He admitted he burnt them to me, and he was convicted for his crime. That is the closest to justice that my daughters will ever get."[31] A four-person panel of the Texas Forensic Science Commission investigating evidence of arson presented in the case acknowledged on July 23, 2010, that state and local arson investigators used "flawed science" in determining that the blaze had been deliberately set. It also found insufficient evidence to prove that state Deputy Fire Marshal Manuel Vasquez and Corsicana Assistant Fire Chief Douglas Fogg were negligent or guilty of misconduct in their arson work.[32] In 2010, the Innocence Project filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas, seeking a judgment of "official oppression".[33] Judge Charlie Baird held an inquiry in September 2010 in Austin, but Lowell Thompson, the Navarro County DA, appeared at the hearing with a motion for Baird to recuse himself due to conflict of interest — Baird had once affirmed Willingham's conviction while sitting as a Criminal Appeals judge, yet had also been recognized by an anti-death penalty group. When the recusal motion was denied, Thompson appealed to the Third Court of Appeals and had the proceedings stayed. (Thompson later received an award from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association for this motion and appeal.)[34][35]
In 2014, The Washington Post reported that new evidence emerged indicating that Webb had said in taped interviews that he lied on the witness stand in exchange for a prosecutor's help obtaining a reduced prison term and financial support from a rich rancher.[36] On March 3, 2015, the Texas State Bar filed a disciplinary action, Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Jackson, against Jackson for failing to disclose information on his deal with Webb.[37] According to the complaint, "During a pretrial hearing on July 24, 1992, [Jackson] told the trial court that he had no evidence favorable to Willingham. That statement was false."[citation needed]

 PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. 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 found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.