News 07.21.10

Texas Forensic Science Commission to Convene Friday

On Friday morning in Houston, the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC) will meet to discuss the status of Cameron Todd Willingham’s arson investigation based on outdated and discredited scientific analysis, among other items.  

Willingham was executed in 2004 for allegedly setting a fire that killed his children. Before and after his execution, leading experts found that there was no scientific basis for deeming the fire an act of arson.

This investigation has been included in TFSC meeting agendas since last October, but it’s been over nine months since Chairman Bradley effectively stopped their work on Willingham’s arson conviction and it needs to be resumed.

In

an op-ed in today’s Houston Chronicle

, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and Willingham’s cousin, Patricia Cox write about the need for the forensic panel to resist Bradley’s efforts at sabotaging the investigation.

Last week, after closed meetings that may violate the Texas Open Meetings Act, Bradley sent out an unsigned legal memo instructing commissioners that they have a “relatively narrow investigative jurisdiction.”

Employing “Catch-22” logic, he claimed that commissioners lack the “discretion or power” to investigate evidence that was not from a laboratory accredited by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) — which, as it happens, did not accredit labs before 2003, years after the Willingham fire. By this reasoning, the TFSC cannot review any pre-2003 matter, such as the Houston Police Department crime lab evidence, the scandal that gave rise to its formation.

But two years ago, the Commission and Attorney General’s office agreed that cases like Willingham’s that precede 2003 are well within its authority.

And rightly so: The Willingham inquiry into the use of unreliable arson analysis is an urgent matter for more than 600 people incarcerated in Texas whose arson convictions may have been based on invalid science. If its investigation is derailed, the commissioners would be turning their backs on these potentially innocent Texans.

. . .

The people of Texas deserve a justice system they can believe in. But if commissioners keep allowing Bradley to rewrite the rules and sabotage the commission’s mission, their ability to redress the forensic problems that have plagued the criminal justice system in Texas will never materialize.


Read the full op-ed here

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Get more information on Friday’s meeting in our press advisory

.

Visit our

Willingham Resource Page

for more informaton on the Willingham case and the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

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