Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Execution Watch: Todd Willingham Redux

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed 2004

By Elizabeth Stein
Producer, Execution Watch

Execution Watch's first-ever special edition will air today, Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. Central Time on KPFT 90.1 FM Houston, with discussion and analysis of the Todd Willingham case.

The Willingham story is not over. We'll talk about why. We hope you'll join us.

The special edition of Execution Watch will broadcast live on the HD3 channel of KPFT FM 90.1 Houston and stream simultaneously on the internet, http://executionwatch.org > Listen.

Making the show a first for Execution Watch is that it will not involve live coverage of an execution. Instead, it will delve into the Willingham case, including the state's continued denial of culpability in the execution of an innocent person and the reluctance by officials to recognize and embrace the latest advances in arson investigation techniques.

In the studio will be Execution Watch Host Ray Hill; attorney Susan Ashley, who conceived and produced the special edition; Execution Watch Legal Analyst Jim Skelton, and criminal defense attorney Larry Douglas.

The show's esteemed guests will include Liz Gilbert, the playwright and educator who became immersed in Willingham's case after volunteering to be his pen pal and who kick-started the investigation into his conviction.

Also scheduled to be a guest on the show is Gerald Hurst, the widely respected arson expert who first brought to light the profound flaws of the original arson investigation.



TimB said...

The Willingham case show talked about what would have happened if Dr. Hurst's report had been seen by a court.

It was. The court decision can be seen on the Frontline website:

The Texas court said that even if Dr. Hurst's report was correct and there was no physical evidence of arson, there was enough other evidence to confirm his guilt.

TimB said...

The Willingham case show discussed whether his trial lawyer ever tried to get a fire expert for the defense.

The answer is yes. He contacted one but the expert agreed with the state.

He apparently never contacted any others although there were certainly many available.

The first edition of NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations was published in early 1992, well before trial. It has since become the standard for fire investigations.

About 30 scientific fire experts were on the committee that produced that manual. Any one of those would probably have undermined the state's case or pointed Willingham's lawyers to other experts.

The manual itself said that a lot of the arson indicators used by the state's fire investigators were invalid.

At the bottom of this webpage is a CNN transcript where the Chicago Tribune reporter, Steve Mills, stated that he tracked down the fire expert in Dallas who Willingham's lawyer contacted.


The fire expert greatly regretted his mistake in siding with the prosecution's fire investigators.