Oct 2, 2009

Texas governor slows execution investigation

Texas Gov. Rick Perry removed three people from a specially appointed forensic science commission just two days before it was set to hear expert testimony disputing much of the evidence used in the trial of a Texas man found guilty of murder and later executed.

From the Dallas Morning News:
The hearing of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, scheduled for Friday in Irving, was abruptly canceled by the new chairman the governor chose, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley. He is considered one of the most conservative, hard-line prosecutors in Texas.

The commission was to hear from Baltimore-based Craig Beyler, a nationally recognized fire expert, who had been hired by the panel to review the Cameron Todd Willingham case. Beyler's long-anticipated report, released in August, called the Willingham fire investigation slipshod and based on wives' tales about how fire behaves and possible arson evidence.
A recent New Yorker story looked into the 1991 case and also found serious flaws in the evidence used to convict Willingham of murdering his three daughters by lighting their house on fire. Included was a report from another arson expert who said investigators relied shoddy technique and discredited methodology to conclude the fire was intentionally set. That report, done after the trial but before the execution, went to Texas authorities and was included in the clemency plea sent to Gov. Perry.

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