Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More on the Willingham case

Janet Jacobs of the Corsicana Daily Sun interviewed a number of people who took part in the trial of Cameron Todd Willingham ( Her article fails to mention the phenomenon of crazed glass, which was mistakenly used as evidence of arson. Indeed, her article fails to grapple with one of the main points of Mr. Grann’s piece, that the forensic science of arson is far more advanced than it was seventeen years ago. Despite twice mentioning Mr. Willingham’s moving his car and suggesting that it was evidence he cared for his car more than his children, Ms. Jacobs neglects to give Mr. Willingham’s own explanation, namely that he did not want the gasoline to exacerbate the fire. Ms. Jacobs does not discuss the role of psychiatrist James Grigson in labeling Mr. Willingham as a sociopath ( Yet she quotes Sergeant Hensley dismissing an arson expert’s opinion as something to be bought without delving into Mr. Grigson’s unethical behavior, for which he was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association. Indeed, most of the people whom Ms. Jacobs interviewed have an interest in portraying Mr. Willingham in the most unfavorable light possible.

Ms. Jacobs indicates that Mr. Willingham’s attorney, David Martin, only became convinced of Mr. Willingham’s guilt after the trial was over. How is this possible when the evidence (at least that with which I am familiar) produced after the trial was exculpatory? Mr. Martin goes on to call the Innocence Project an “absolute farce,” despite the Innocent Project’s having a role in releasing over one hundred people. A defense attorney who calls the Innocence Project a “bunch of hype” is a little bit like a chemist who asserts that there are four elements (earth, air, water, fire), and that the periodic table is a scam.

But equally problematic for me is the strong likelihood that Mr. Martin defended Mr. Willingham while believing him to be guilty. One might be tempted to say that when a lawyer believes his own client is guilty, it is damning. However, my previous blog entry ( gives an example of a lawyer who did not believe his client, and was unrepentant when later DNA evidence exonerated him. Did Mr. Willingham or Mr. Lloyd ( get the effective counsel to which they are entitled? I have to wonder.


William L. Anderson said...

Good points of rebuttal. James Grigson is a man who should have been sent to prison long ago, along with the prosecutors who used him and the judges who have permitted this animal to testify in their courtrooms. If this is not proof of rigged justice in Texas, then none exists.

Don't forget that Grigson says the very same thing about every person he ever has interviewed.

Anonymous said...

I have about come to the conclusion that there is something in the drinking water of academia that robs its residents of all thinking abilities.

I can find no difference between professors who believe Cameron Willingham's myriad of lies and those professors who believed Crystal Mangum's myriad of lies. After all, in both cases the professors have ulterior motives --in both cases to promote a political agenda. If I were of a politically-correct turn of mind, I would note that the two white male professors who believe the white male Willingham are the same people who didn't believe the black female Mangum, and then draw the appropriate conclusion that they are racists and sexists of the front rank. While I am of course a poster child for political incorrectness, I will henceforth remember when I read your condemnations of the G88, that you didn't believe the crazy stories told by a black woman but you do believe crazy stories told by a white man.


Chris Halkides said...


The analysis behind your most recent comment is faulty in several ways. First, I did not first bring up Mr. Willingham’s case at DIW to promote an agenda but rather to refute your implication that no innocent person has been executed (you have since moved the goalposts). Second, it was the Lime Street experiment that really piqued my interest in this case. One of my mentors said to me, “When an experiment turns out the way you expected, that is fine. When an experiment turns out the way you did not expect, that is even better, because now you have learned something.” This experiment is a good case in point, and it overturned several kinds of folklore about arson using a science-based approach. Much the same can be said about the Oakland fire and the crazed glass phenomenon. In other words, my doubts about the worthiness of his conviction are based on the failure of several kinds of supposed evidence (pour patterns and crazed glass, for example) to stand up to empirical scrutiny. Third, I do not believe that Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, or Mr. Evans raped Ms. Mangum because at least two had unimpeachable alibis to go along with DNA evidence that was unusually strong (because the AV was taken into custody shortly after the incident). You imply that race or gender are involved without one scintilla of support, and I will not respond to this argument any further.


Texas Moratorium Network said...

Sign a petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.

a Nice NJ Guy said...

RRH couches arguments in terms of White and Black.

Why does RRH discriminate against Kodachrome ? Is RRH prejudiced against Kodak color slide film ?

Hmmmm ... none of that makes any sense .... but neither does RRH's rant.

From the vantage of a new generation of forensic arson science, it appears that the fire in Cameron Todd Willingham's home was not arson, and therefore the conclusion that he murdered his three children is incorrect.

The arguments advanced in the Wikipedia article

seem to be pretty convincing.

I don't give priority to the Texas Moratorium petition to 'admit error'.
Rather, the emphasis needs to be on improving our JUSTICE SYSTEM.