Four top arson experts concluded that the state of Texas executed a man in 2004 based on scientifically invalid evidence. Yesterday, they called for an official reinvestigation of the case, the Chicago Tribune reports. The experts, assembled by the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization responsible for scores of exonerations, said the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson-murders of his three daughters were based on interpretations by fire investigators that have been scientifically disproved. “The whole system has broken down,” Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project. “It’s time to find out whether Texas has executed an innocent man.”
The experts were called in after an investigation by the Tribune that showed Willingham had been found guilty on arson theories that have been repudiated by scientific advances. Many of the theories were simply lore that had been handed down by generations of arson investigators who relied on what they were told. The report matches the findings of the Tribune, published in December 2004. The newspaper investigated the Willingham case after an October 2004 series, “Forensics Under the Microscope,” which examined the use of forensics in the courtroom, including the continued use of disproved arson theories to obtain convictions.