Texas State Fire Marshall is Commended for Transforming State’s Law Enforcement
opinion piece, Cory Session, policy director at the
Innocence Project of Texas
, declares: State Fire Marshall Chris Connealy should be named “Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year for 2013.” He says that Connealy has taught him “what is good in Texas law enforcement.”
Session is the brother of Texas exoneree Tim Cole, who was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1988 and served 13 years of a 25-year sentence before he died in prison in 1999. Session writes: “I’ve learned how easy it is for most officials to cover up their mistakes and never admit to doing anything wrong.”
According to Session, he’s sees a sea change with Connealy—the state’s law enforcement is beginning to evolve. “When Connealy, a 36-year firefighter, took over the job,” says Session, the agency “was seen as a national joke. Within a few weeks, Connealy started turning everything around.”
Connealy resumed the position of state fire marshal just a year ago, when the state was receiving national attention for the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, whose murder conviction had been based on expert testimony and evidence that was later discredited by the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Within the past year, Connealy has begun to rebuild the reputation of his office. According to Session, “As Dr. John DeHaan, one of the most prominent fire scientists in the world . . . put it recently, Connealy’s efforts are turning Texas into a model for the entire country.”
Connealy has made important allies during his short tenure. Earlier this year, he teamed up with the Innocence Project of Texas to launch a review of more than 1,000 arson convictions. That review led to the creation of a scientific advisory panel that is made up of the nation’s top arson experts. The panel has completed five reviews. Of those cases, three were found to contain flawed science.
Session commends Connealy not just for the work he’s done with the Innocence Project of Texas, but for the way he has “energized his agency from top to bottom.”
“In the space of a little over a year, he has made his agency into what it should have been all along,” writes Session, “a dynamic force of dedicated men and women seeking the truth and keeping the rest of Texas safe.”
Learn more about Tim Cole
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