Commission Frustrated With Willingham Investigation

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is the new chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is the new chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

Members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission expressed concerns today about the progress — or lack thereof — in the case of convicted arsonist Cameron Todd Willingham before ending yet another meeting without a decision about the evidence used to send the Corsicana man to the death chamber in 2004.

After spending nearly an hour in executive session, the commission voted to compile a list of the commissioners' recommendations and draft a report. Commission members also unanimously voted for Chairman John Bradley to seek an opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott on three issues: the broadness of the term "forensic analysis" and whether it applies to the Willingham case; if the case was in the commission's jurisdiction; and the Legislature's interpretation of an "accredited lab." 

Commission member Lance Evans said there are some issues the commission can address independent of the attorney general's opinion.

"Let me give you a hypothetical, and I'm not saying this is how it's going to turn out," Evans said. "Part of what we're doing is analyzing whether or not they followed the best practices of the time, and if those best practices of the time are still the best practices. There's nothing to stop us from writing a report and commenting on that. Hypothetically, I can see a situation where we go through a preliminary report that goes through all of those things, and then maybe a subsequent report that touches on the finding of whether there was or was not negligence."

In 1991, Willingham was convicted of burning down his Corsicana home while his three daughters were still inside. He maintained his innocence from the start. The commission members have reviewed Willingham's case and the evidence that was used to convict him for nearly two years.

The commission is scheduled to reconvene on Apr. 15, but it is unclear whether Willingham will be on the agenda.

"I just don't want to see this sit," commission member Norma Farley said. "I want to see this move forward."

 

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