News 07.22.11

New TFSC Chairman Tackles Willingham Case

It has been three years since the Texas Forensic Science Commission agreed to review the science that was used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three daughters. During that time, the leadership of the commission has changed three times.

Two months after being appointed chairman, Dr. Nizam Peerwani resumes work investigating the arson science used to convict Willingham, reported the Texas Tribune.

“His background and his temperament give him the unique ability to make sure the commission is focused on the science of forensics instead of the science of politics,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who helped created the nine-member commission in 2005.

Willingham always maintained his innocence, and the arson investigation used to convict him was questioned by leading experts before he was executed. Since 2004, many additional experts have agreed that the original investigation was based on bad arson science. 

A year after the TFSC agreed to investigate Willingham’s case, it was poised to hear a potentially damaging report from an independent expert but Governor Perry abruptly dismissed the commission chairman and added members.

The pace has been slow ever since, but the commission did issue a report this spring finding that the investigation was flawed.  However, the commission stopped short of finding that the investigators in the case acted negligently.

Ellis said he is optimistic the new chairman will move the commission past the political pressures that have beleaguered its work. “The reason for creating the commission is to make sure in Texas we’re using forensics properly,” he said. “We ought to go where the science takes us.”


Read the full article

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Read background on the Willingham case and the Texas Forensic Science Commission

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Visit the TFSC website

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