"Well, Your Honor. We've plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence. "

>> Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Mr. Perry, don't you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn't on, but I think I got the gist of it."

In comments, Matt points us to this remarkable op-ed from one of Cameron Todd Willingham's murderers, former prosecutor John H. Jackson. Essentially, Willingham was convicted based on two things: junk-scientific non-evidence that the fire was arson, and the ludicrously implausible testimony of a mentally ill jailhouse snitch. Amazingly, Jackson concedes that the central forensic junk science was "undeniably flawed" and doesn't mention the snitch's testimony at all, but continues to assert that Willingham was guilty. Nina Morrison systematically dismantles the remaining "evidence" Jackson cites. To summarize:

  • The vast majority of the potentially damning stuff (assertions that Willingham was a sociopath, assumptions that a fridge blocking the rear entrance was placed there intentionally, ambiguous statements at his daughter's funeral) inextricably bootstraps from the assumption that the fire was arson. A claim for which there is now, as Jackson admits, no evidence.
  • Remaining is stuff that obviously isn't evidence of anything (refusing to take an inadmissible polygraph), assertions that he tried to cause a miscarriage that were denied by his wife, evidence that makes clear we wasn't a saint but don't constitute anything remotely resembling evidence that he would burn his three daughters alive, and evidence that if anything points to his innocence rather than his guilt (his vehement -- indeed, heavens to betsy, "vulgar" -- rejection of a plea agreement.)
  • And, finally, the punchline: " I am convinced that in the absence of any arson testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been unchanged, a fact that did not escape the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals." Well, if the country's favorite conveyor belt to the death chamber refused to overturn his conviction, I'm convinced!
It would be a disgrace if Willingham was even prosecuted based on this crap. That he was executed...


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