The newly formed criminal justice journalism group,
The Marshall Project, broke a story
in the Washington Post today revealing new allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that likely caused Texas to wrongly execute Cameron Todd Willingham. The story, written by Maurice Possley, who covered Willingham’s case as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, reveals that on behalf of Willingham’s surviving relatives, the Innocence Project filed a detailed grievance with the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas urging disciplinary action against former Willingham prosecutor John Jackson.
The grievance reveals newly discovered evidence that strongly suggests ethical and possible criminal misconduct by Jackson in covering up a deal with jailhouse informant Johnny Webb, who testified that Willingham, while in jail, confessed to the arson murder of his three children. This supposed confession became indispensable evidence on the eve of Willingham’s execution in 2004 when an expert report was filed with courts exposing the arson evidence against Willingham as false. Current and former Navarro County prosecutors were not aware that Jackson had reduced Webb’s conviction for Robbery in the First Degree to Robbery in the Second Degree based on cooperation in the Willingham case. If that fact had not been hidden by Jackson prior to the execution, the prosecutor assigned to the case now says he would have disclosed it.