Fire Officials Urged to Revisit Old Cases Forensic Science Commission nears close of Willingham investigation BY JORDAN SMITH, FRI., APRIL 22, 2011
Members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission are urging state fire officials to develop standards to review old cases, based on potentially outdated science, and to correct any errors they might discover in their criminal investigations. The recommendation comes as the panel winds down its inquiry in the 1991 case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted and executed for setting fire to his Corsicana home, killing his three children. The panel is mum on the guilt or innocence of Willingham, which it was not charged with determining; however, following more than three years of investigation, the panel concluded in its report on the case that the science of fire and its investigation has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Nonetheless, many investigators still working the field have no background in chemistry or physics, which can pose a problem for accurate investigation. Although Texas' State Fire Marshal's Office told the panel last year that it stands by its work on the Willing ham case, many of the commission members found that assurance hard to comprehend, given the evolution of the science. Discussing that part of the report at a meeting last week, commissioners suggested in fact that the SFMO's position was "untenable" in light of scientific advances. While the report does deliver a stern message for fire investigators, it doesn't state whether the investigators were actually negligent in their investigation and testimony against Willingham in court. That will remain an open question, at least until Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott weighs in to tell the FSC whether it has the jurisdiction regarding that question. That ruling is expected this summer.
Forensics report on Willingham case advances good science Posted Monday, Apr. 18, 20110 Members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission last week sidestepped the most incendiary issue facing them,... more
TX: Fire Officials Urged to Revisit Old Cases Petra.,Thu Apr 21 14:14