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The Brief: Top Texas News for April 15, 2011

A state commission wouldn't rule Thursday on what's become one of the highest-profile death penalty cases in the nation.

Texas Forensic Science Commission meeting April 14th, 2011

The Big Conversation:

A state commission wouldn't rule Thursday on what's become one of the highest-profile death penalty cases in the nation.

Instead, the Texas Forensic Science Commission's long-awaited report on the controversial Cameron Todd Willingham case issued recommendations for fire investigators, who have been accused of professional negligence for deciding years ago that the fire that killed Willingham's three daughters was arson.

Willingham was convicted in 1992 of setting fire to his Corsicana home and killing his children, but following his execution in 2004, the case became a national lightning rod when scientists began questioning the fire science used to convict him. Experts have since deemed that science scientifically unsound. (Check out a timeline of the case here.)

The commission's chairman, John Bradley, who himself has become a lightning rod within the case, said the panel would wait for an opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott on its jurisdiction before ruling on any negligence. 

During public testimony Thursday, Willingham's cousin, Patricia Cox, said that despite what she called the needless delays and interruptions that have slowed the now 20-year-old case, she and her family would keep pressing to clear Willingham's name. "We will not give up our effort to ... hold those that are accountable, accountable for his needless death," she said.


  • A psychologist who determined whether inmates were intellectually competent enough to face the death penalty has been punished and agreed Thursday never to perform such evaluations again, as the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reports.
  • The San Antonio Express-News has taken a closer look at controversial higher education reformer Rick O'Donnell's provocative research paper "Is Academic Research a Good Investment for Texas?", which the Express-News says "contains about two dozen errors, including quotes attributed to the wrong people, inaccurate citations and fuzzy data.

"I'm sick and tired of Gov. Perry coming to California." — California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, in Austin on Thursday with a delegation from his state to study job creation in Texas, taking a lighthearted jab at Gov. Rick Perry, who has tried to lure California businesses to Texas


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