A judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the power to overturn death sentences and halt executions, wants to improve the criminal justice system’s understanding of fire science, says the Austin American-Statesman. Judge Barbara Hervey commented in the aftermath of a possibly flawed arson investigation in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for killing his three young children by setting fire to his house.
Hervey said her interest in the issue was piqued by reports that Cameron’s conviction relied on bad science, now-disproved theories and personal bias from arson investigators. “Science progresses all the time, and we need to have a better understanding of fire science,” she said. She wants the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit to investigate fire science. Hervey created the unit last year to improve the justice system in areas such as police interrogation, eyewitness identification and evidence preservation; it includes politicians, lawyers, law enforcement members and legal experts.