“Conviction”- The Movie, PBS Frontline’s, “Arson & Injustice”: The Cameron Todd Willingham Story, documenting the wrongful conviction and execution of an innocent man and “Compensating the Innocent”, the freeing of Alan Newton, who served 27 years for a rape he did not commit and was recently awarded 18.5 million dollars (the highest award ever given to a wrongfully convicted individual) are all highlighted this month by the Innocence Project.

I highly recommend reading all three IP featured stories.

My original August, 2009 blog on the Cameron Todd Willingham Story, TRIAL BY FIRE, written by  David Grann, and featured in The New Yorker Magazine, can be found HERE.

 

Showtimes and trailer for CONVICTION, now playing nationwide.

 

2 Comments

  1. Hooday on November 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I’m a big believer in victims rights, and have no pleasure seeing bad people executed. But I believe its completely justified to end the lives of those people who have irretrievably crossed the line and have maliciously, premeditatively taken someone else’s life.
    Cammeron Willingham’s story, presented from the view that he was innocent and was framed using incoherent and lawless forensic evidence, is very persuasive and compelling. Anyone would be strongly influenced towards this defendant based on such information. There are many people who’ve been exonerated via DNA evidence that proves their convictions were false, and that the prosecution framed an innocent man.
    However, regarding Willingham, based on his ex-wife’ testimony, he may not be the railroaded martyr he is being made out to be. The link at this site is very revealing, and contains more information regarding this situation that has previously been expressed. I hope everyone will read it and consider its gravity.
    http://rickvskay.blogspot.com/2009/10/cameron-todd-willinghams-ex-wife-agrees.html

  2. Hooday on November 5, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this Willingham situation for a while now, and I want to make a comment.
    The Frontline piece was very good. It presented both sides reasonably well, yet left the outcome clearly on the side of wrongful conviction/execution. Here are some thoughts about this:
    The case is very hard to back trace. The combination of a defense attorney who presented a non-defense because he believed his client was guilty, along with inconsistent witness reports of Cameron’s behavior during, immediately after, and on the night of the fire, and a very puzzling and shifting testimony of his wife make this case very difficult to figure out. Its hard to know who or what to trust.
    A great amount of testimony was produced by the contemporary fire experts, who concluded there was no evidence of arson whatever. This, in the face of video evidence suggesting burn patterns on the hall carpet and the tested presence of lighter fluid under the threshold of the front door. The expert’s explanation for these evidences are that flashover caused the burn marks, and that a charcoal grill kept on the front porch was cause for lighter fluid under the threshold. Neither of these explanations were, in my mind, overwhelmingly exculpatory; especially in the face of eyewitness testimony regarding Willingham’s behavior while the fire was in progress: not rushing back in to rescue his children; putting his possessions in his car and pushing it away from the burning house; loudly whining about his very small burns at the hospital while his daughter was desperately being attended to by the emergency room staff; going to a bar later that night and not exhibiting much sorrow or emotional grief for the events of the day.
    That he powerfully cursed his wife after being strapped to the execution gurney was another very strange behavior of his. Why would an innocent man react that way to seeing his (by that time) ex-wife? The answer would be simple if his ex-wife had recently not only switched her conviction regarding his guilt, (she had steadfastly maintained his innocence for many years after the trial,) but had also relayed to her brother that Willingham had confessed his guilt to her at their last jail visit. If he was innocent, this action of hers would have been one of real betrayal, and his reaction at the execution would have been understandable.
    What has really been a sticking point of evidence towards innocence for me was his lack of burned feet, (clearly evidenced in on the scene photos.) If he had poured and set afire the accelerants in the childrens’ room and hallway, (including the threshold of the house, under which lighter fluid was found,) then his feet surely would have suffered burns.
    Yet, his other behaviors are still very strange, and if not adding up to guilt of arson then surely advancing towards criminal neglect. His eldest daughter was supposedly sleeping in the same bed as he, and it was her cries that woke him up. Why did he leave her? That is a explanation I cannot fathom.
    Is it fair to say that while he may not have been an arsonist, he most surely was a coward and unfailingly self-centered individual?
    This case is hard to resolve. Its hard to review this evidence in a straightforward manner. In the end though, I suppose the final analysis is that BECAUSE of the difficultly of ascertaining the veracity of events, putting a man to death in light of this seems a very unjust and imprudent thing to do.
    I believe Texas is a very bad place to have this happen. In trying to be adamantly upright about upholding the justice of capital punishment, they are not patient enough regarding the truth. They do not want to be seen as executing innocent people, so they handle themselves in a very aggressive manner.
    Someone recently said the cost to execute is far higher than spending life in prison. That may be, but what bothers people, (including me,) is the thought of killers being paroled after only a few years. Though perhaps some have indeed been unrighteously executed, the VAST majority have not. And to think of ANY of these killers gaining release from prison is just too heinous to contemplate. Acala is a great example of that.
    Just my thoughts for the present.

Leave a Comment