The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Innocence Project of Texas will begin reviewing questionable arson convictions next month. The review is part of a national movement scrutinizing arson cases to ensure that they’re based on credible, scientific evidence. The Texas case of
Cameron Todd Willingham
—who was executed in 2004 based on unscientific, outdated arson analysis—raised concerns across the country about the integrity of other arson convictions.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy spoke with the Associated Press about the review:
“Having been around fire investigations and being in the fire service the last 35 years, I saw where there could be improvements,” Connealy said in an interview. “I wanted to try to lead that effort to improving fire investigations. It should be based on science.”
If the group finds problems with an arson investigation, its findings will be sent to the authorities with jurisdiction over the case and to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Connealy said. No action will be required, but the report could help someone who is wrongly imprisoned.
One of the cases to be reviewed is that of Ed Graf, convicted of setting a 1988 fire that killed his two stepsons. Graf claims innocence, and fire experts have questioned the arson analysis in his case. Convictions around or before 1992 are particularly suspect since that was the year that the National Fire Protection Association issued is first set of guidelines. Prior to 1992, no consistent methodology was used to analyze fires and analysts were often retired firefighters with no scientific background.
other disputed arson cases