Cameron Todd Willingham’s Surviving Relatives Request Posthumous Pardon Investigation
Relatives for Cameron Todd Willingham held a press conference at the Texas capitol today to urge the state to conduct an investigation into Willingham’s wrongful execution. Last year, Willingham’s family filed a posthumous pardon petition before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that the state pardon Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three daughters despite compelling evidence of his innocence.
The New York Times
reports in a September 26th article that newly discovered evidence by the Innocence Project points to possible false testimony from a jailhouse informant at Willingham’s trial, and possible prosecutorial misconduct that may have contributed to his wrongful execution. “ ‘This is a terrible thing to not only execute somebody who was innocent; this is an individual who lost his three children,’ said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, a legal group that focuses on wrongful convictions.”
Willingham’s conviction was largely based on the testimony of a state fire marshal who said that Willingham started the fire intentionally, and on the testimony of informant Johnny Webb. Webb claimed that Willingham told him in 1992 — within earshot of several law enforcement employees — that he committed the crime to protect his wife, who had injured or killed one of the children the night before. Prior to Willingham’s execution, Webb acknowledged in 2000 in a handwritten “motion to recant” that he lied about the confessions and was forced to testify by the District Attorney. He also said Willingham was innocent. New evidence from the Innocence Project reveals that prosecutors on the case never disclosed Webb’s recantation to Willingham’s defense team.
At the press conference, Scheck noted that there is new evidence pointing to possible prosecutorial misconduct. Judge John H. Jackson, who was the Navarro County prosecutor who tried Willingham in 1992, wrote to prison officials in 1996 to ask that his aggravated robbery charge be reduced to robbery, suggesting that Webb was promised a deal in exchange for his testimony. Other letters written in 1996 to the parole division from the prosecutor’s office urged clemency for Webb.
An investigation is needed, Mr. Scheck said, to improve the judicial process.
More in the
Ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to conduct an investigation into the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham
Leave a Reply
Thank you for visiting us. You can learn more about how we consider cases here. Please avoid sharing any personal information in the comments below and join us in making this a hate-speech free and safe space for everyone.