Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Hanging Judge

Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death in 2004 after being convicted of setting a fire that killed his daughters. The arson investigation has since been entirely discredited by the leading arson investigators in the country, and it is now apparent to anyone with a brain that an innocent man was executed. I've written more about the case and investigation here, here, here, and here.

Nightline recently interviewed some of the people involved in this story.

From the interview with John Jackson, who prosecuted Willingham, and who is now judge:

Nightline's Terry Moran: You would agree that this report, from the Texas Forensic Science Commision, call into very serious question the methodology, and the way, this arson investigation-

Jackson: Without question.

Moran: ...That it really has a problem.

Jackson: That the techniques used were flawed.

Moran: Deeply.

Jackson: Yes...Some of the evidence is certainly less than, less credible than I would have liked to see.

Moran: And doesn't that give you pause at all, about sending a man to death?

Jackson: Not a man like Todd....The best evidence to me is not the investigation of the arson, the best evidence that I believe I presented was the, uh, prior attempts of Todd Willingham to kill his children.

Moran: He beat his wife when she was pregnant, therefore he killed his children in the fire?

Jackson: I think that's the major factor that most finders of facts such as jurors would consider.

Even Willingham's wife testified that he would never have hurt their children. Nor was there ever any evidence that he had tried to harm or kill his children. Jackson is just lying here, and he knows it.

Here's Jackson again, talking about the burn marks on the floor, which seem pretty random.

Jackson: It's perhaps a pentagram kind of a figure, ah, that some people accosiate with devil worship, that sort of thing.

Moran: You think that, that Todd Willingham poured accelerant in the shape of a pentagram, some sort of devil worship thing?

Jackson: I think that's very possible, and I think that's very likely.

Moran (obviously stunned): It's likely?

Jackson: Yes.

Moran: Based on the fact that he liked heavy metal and Iron Maiden, and liked metal rock groups that use skulls, and those kind of imagery, that makes him a devil worshipper?

Jackson: No, it does not make him, but it makes him more likely that he is a devil worshipper, or that he is obsessed with, ah, ah, Satan-like figures and that sort of thing.

Moran: And that would...that's evidence that he killed his children.

Jackson: Uh, that's certainly one factor that, that, uh, a finder of fact could consider.

Which would make half of the teenage boys in America in 1991 devil worshippers, and by, extension, child killers, apparently.

Here's Jackson talking about how he felt that Willingham's angry refusal to admit that he killed his children in exchange for a life sentence, was evidence that he was guilty.

Jackson: I think it's a response to his belief that, uh, a life sentence for him would be, uh, worse than a death penalty.

Isn't it also possible that he just was telling the truth when he said that, "I will never plead guilty to something I didn't do, especially killing my kids"?

Jackson: Uh, I don't think it's a very good possibillity that Todd Willingham ever told the truth to anybody, about anything. He's- he was one of the most completely manipulative individuals that you'd ever hope to find. (Pause) He's still manipulating us from the grave!

Paranoia. Irrational fear of things you don't know anything about, like heavy metal. Refusal to change one's mind in light of new information.

I think we got us a conservative here, boys!

Jackson is still in denial:

Moran: They say the conclusions reached by the investigators are not warranted by modern fire science, and are based on primitive, old wives tales...fold lore.

Jackson: It's not to say that they're not correct though.

Moran: You send a man to death on that.

Jackson: I'm comfortable with that.

Moran: Beyond a reasonable doubt?

Jackson: Beyond a doubt.

This man is still a judge in Texas. Is there any way on earth, after reading that, that you could expect a fair trial in front of this judge?


Here's Doug Fogg, the original arson investigator who decided that the fire was arson, explaining that all the tests and studies that have been done show him to be wrong:

Fogg: And, they gonna take it to these labs, and, blah, blah, blah, try and disapprove it. Well, I'll take it to a lab and disapprove it. But, ah, come to the real word sometime. Go out and let the beasts get ahold of you.

I don't even know what this statement means. In the real world, where they actually ran experiments, Fogg's theories of arson have be proven to be bullshit.

Update 2

Here are the actual interviews:

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