News 09.27.13

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.

 

Read the

full article

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More in the

press release

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Ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to conduct an investigation into the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham

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  1. Lisa Molder says:

    I watched the movie and have read numerous articles regarding this story. The fact that numerous fire/arson experts said the fire was NOT arson, that there was no sign of an accelerant used as the fire marshall stated, is incredibly disturbing. If there was no arson, than there was no crime. A tragedy, yes, but not a crime. Why didn’t anyone listen to the expert testimony of all of these fire investigators? From what I gather, they had much more experience than the fire marshall, and technology had advanced quite a bit since the early 90s when this fire occurred. When a man’s life is on the line, everything should be done to ensure the facts are correct. It seems apparent this was not arson. This man was convicted on two issues. He started the fire, and a snitch in jail with Willingham said he confessed to the arson to hide the fact his wife had physically abused one of the girls. This makes no sense as there were no findings of abuse on any of the children at autopsy. The snitch, Mr. Webb, has changed his testimony numerous times. He supposedly received a promise of a lighter sentence for his testimony by the prosecutor. This prosecutor was actually brought up on charges of misconduct by the Texas Bar. However, he was acquitted. He and Webb exchanged numerous letters while he was in prison, over the span of years. Why such an interest in Webb? This is just another point that casts doubt on Willingham’s guilt. So if the snitch either lied, or his testimony is questionable at all, and there is questions on whether the fire was even arson, then did an innocent man get executed? Karma is a vindictive wench. IF Webb lied, IF the prosecutor withheld information or pressured Webb into lying on the stand regarding a ‘confession’ he heard from Willingham, well, I wouldn’t want to be these people when the time comes to meet their maker. If any of this is true, than I do not know how all the people complicit in this injustice can sleep at night. Can look in the mirror. Can face their families without shame. I hope I’m wrong. I hope this just looks really sketchy. If not, than we have failed. Our justice system has failed. And an innocent man spent years in prison, after losing his children, for absolutely no reason. God, I hope I’m wrong.

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