Monday, December 25, 2017

Angela Garcia: Ohio: An extraordinary account of junk science and a flawed arson investigation by Liliana Segura published by The Intercept..."Nobody had expected the day to go this way. Not Garcia’s family, who stood firmly by her side over the past decade and a half as she swore the 1999 fire had been a tragic accident. Not her lawyer, Assistant Ohio Public Defender Joanna Sanchez, who had prepared for months to make the case for a new trial. And not the two expert witnesses for the defense, Richard Roby and John DeHaan, distinguished fire scientists who flew hundreds of miles to testify that “there was no evidence of arson,” as both insisted afterward. All of them left the courtroom certain that Garcia had just pleaded guilty to a crime that was never a crime at all."

See discussion of the case of  Cameron Todd Willingham  - convicted by junk science after being accused of murdering his three sleeping children by setting their house on fire while they slept - in a debate on the death penalty published by the  Lubbock Avalanche Journal;   Arnold Loewy: Killiam Professor of Law at Texas Tech School of Law: "There are so many reasons that states have been eliminating capital punishment that I may not be able to name them all in the allotted space. First, in recent years without the benefit (or perhaps detriment) of the death penalty, the national murder rate has dropped precipitously. Second, a number of states, New Mexico for one, eliminated the death penalty because administering it was too costly. Some may be surprised to learn that caring for a prisoner for the duration of his life is less expensive than executing him, but the evidence is there to support that. But what about good old-fashioned retribution, ”an eye for an eye” and all that good stuff? Part of the problem is that we do not and constitutionally cannot execute all murderers. Those few states that have maintained capital punishment and even fewer that actually use it are limited to executing those, who theoretically are the worst of the worst. But that is not what happens. The major factors determining who is executed are the proclivities and proficiencies of the prosecutor, the race of the victim (those who kill whites are more likely to be executed than those who kill blacks), and finally, the race of the defendant (blacks are more likely to be executed than whites). All of this would be bad enough if we always got the question of guilt or innocence right. But we don’t. The reasons are well known and they include misidentification by an eye witness, a coerced and untruthful confession (yes, they do occur with alarming frequency), false testimony from an alleged jailhouse snitch seeking to curry favor with those who could reduce his sentence and junk science. The last of these was responsible for the execution of a man from Texarkana, named Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was accused of murdering his three sleeping children by setting their house on fire while they slept, certainly a crime which had he committed it would be death penalty-worthy in a state like Texas that has the death penalty. The problem is that the forensic science, which was sufficient to persuade the jury that he was guilty, was later determined to be junk science. Although then-Gov. Rick Perry could have commuted the sentence, he did not and Willingham was executed. I am not saying that I know for sure that Willingham was innocent, but I do know for sure that there was no credible evidence to prove that this man who protested his innocence with his last breath was actually guilty."

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."