Scheck: TX Arson Investigation Should Go On
In an op-ed in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck called on the Texas Forensic Science Commission to continue its investigation of the arson investigation that led to Cameron Todd
Willingham’s murder conviction and, eventually, his execution.
The forensics board has investigated the Willingham case for years, but the Attorney General ruled last month that commissioners could not consider some key evidence in the case because it was first considered before the commission began its work.
This is yet another stunning example of politics preventing the commission from carrying out the responsibilities that led the Legislature to create the commission in the first place: to ensure that what passes as forensic science in Texas court rooms is actually based on science and to prevent innocent people from being wrongly convicted based on testimony that is not scientifically based.
What’s clear is that the commission should further investigate Fire Marshal Maldonado’s actions throughout this investigation. On at least two instances over the past year — once through a letter submitted to the commission and again through the testimony of his attorney – Maldonado has defended the original investigation of the Willingham case, claiming that the investigation was based on sound science even though this has been disputed by many of the nation’s most respected arson scientists and is in clear violation of accepted standards of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), the nation’s foremost authority on fire investigation science.
This alone gives the commission plenty of reason to proceed with a complete and thorough investigation of Maldonado and insist that he appear before the commission to explain how he could hold this “untenable” position.
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