September 15, 2010
Statement from Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, on the Texas Forensic Science Commission Draft Willingham Report Issued Sept. 10, 2010.
The Commission draft report, seemingly written by Chairman Bradley, is troubling because it ducks the important issues raised in our allegation to the Commission. Scientifically there is no difference between the arson investigations in the Willis and Willingham arson cases, but the results could not have been more different – one was exonerated and compensated for his wrongful conviction, the other was executed despite the Governor being informed of the unreliability of the science used to convict. The report does not even address our claim that the Fire Marshal’s Office has a duty to correct prior unreliable scientific representations, and that it has not done so, leaving the hundreds of arson convictions without adequate review.
Further, this report completely overlooks the plainly improper testimony of inspector Vasquez about Willingham’s credibility and intent that has been roundly condemned by the past President of the American Academy of Forensic Science and leading legal scholars in evidence.
The shortcomings in this report reflect the secretive and reluctant manner with which Mr. Bradley has led this Commission since he shut down the Commission’s original, thorough, and public process for handling this investigation. It defies reason that the Commission would refuse to question its own expert, much less any other party who could inform the Commission on this subject.
Let us be clear that our claim is not a hunt for someone to blame, but for identification of wrongs that must be remedied. We sincerely hope that the full Commission will focus and specifically respond to the important issues raised in our allegation and the supporting documents that we submitted at their request on August 20.