Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?

Brian Saint-Paul recounts the disturbing details at Inside Catholic.

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At 8/26/2009 4:47 PM, Blogger Daniel C. said...

Another reason why I've changed my opinion about the need for capital punishment in the United States. Very heart breaking story.

At 8/27/2009 2:12 PM, Blogger Tom McKenna said...

"Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?"


"The testimony at trial demonstrates that Willingham neither showed remorse for his actions nor grieved the loss of his three children. Willingham’s neighbors testified that when the fire “blew out” the windows, Willingham “hollered about his car” and ran to move it away from the fire to avoid its being damaged. A fire fighter also testified that Willingham was upset that his dart board was burned. One of Willingham’s neighbors testified that the morning following the house fire, Christmas Eve, Willingham and his wife were at the burned house going through the debris while playing music and laughing."


"At the punishment phase of trial, testimony was presented that Willingham has a history of violence. He has been convicted of numerous felonies and misdemeanors, both as an adult and as a juvenile, and attempts at various forms of rehabilitation have proven unsuccessful.

The jury also heard evidence of Willingham’s character. Witnesses testified that Willingham was verbally and physically abusive toward his family, and that at one time he beat his pregnant wife in an effort to cause a miscarriage. A friend of Willingham’s testified that Willingham once bragged about brutally killing a dog. In fact, Willingham openly admitted to a fellow inmate that he purposely started this fire to conceal evidence that the children had been abused."


Even the new experts do not deny that there was lighter fluid on the floor of the house near the front door, they merely hypothesize that firefighters accidentally forced the fluid into the house from the porch, where a scorched container of it was found.

The courts, and the governor, who all reviewed the new evidence, believed the answer to the question is "no."

I would read with a very critical eye one-sided stories in any mainstream media outlet, dominated as they are by anti-death penalty zealots.

At 9/10/2009 8:42 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Texas may have executed a man who was 'not guilty' of arson.

The person's character is not enough to convict him of arson. The witnesses' accounts regarding Willingham changed after police were prepared to arrest him as the prime suspect. Some were not present to describe events they supposedly saw, and eye witness accounts are often unreliable. Many of the potential witness who could have balanced the 'character' of Willingham were never called. The judge who presided over Willingham for a previous misdemeanor recalls later how Willingham returned to visit the judge and show the judge pictures of his kids and how he changed.

The arson 'experts' who indicated tell-tale signs speculated as to who the arson was. These same noted 'puddle marks' 'brown spots' among other observations pointing to arson were later proven false by actual scientific experiments: after a flashover (windows blowing out), these marks of arson can occur naturally at any point where the fire finds a fuel to burn: a couch, a lamp, etc. After a flashover, the fire will seek oxygen as a fuel, creating a burn trail: which was used as evidence that Willingham had poured gas.

Was Willingham a stand-up guy? Probably not. Did he beat his wife? Yes.

Was he guilty of arson? Maybe. He may very well have burned his kids alive, either accidentally or intentionally. But reliable evidence was never presented in this case. There are some sociopath people who clearly should be executed (i.e. Charles Manson). However, this case was far from clear.


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