Friday, June 5, 2009

Beware of Arson Antiquated Science

In 2006 Barry Scheck's Innocence Project in New York sponsored a formal peer review of expert testimony in two Texas arson cases - Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for capital murder, and Ernest Ray Willis who was exonerated after courts overturned essentially similar forensic testimony. Here's the full 49-page report (pdf),

The State’s expert witnesses in both cases relied on interpretations of “indicators” that they were taught constituted evidence of arson. While we have no doubt that these witnesses believed what they were saying, each and every one of the indicators relied upon have since been scientifically proven to be invalid. To the extent that there are still investigators in Texas and elsewhere, who interpret low burning, irregular fire patterns and collapsed furniture springs as indicators of incendiary fires, there will continue to be serious miscarriages of justice.

Now, in Texas, Grits for Breakfast posts that a case is ongoing with Walter Reeves and the Baylor Innocence Project to free a man possibly wrongfully convicted of arson relying on this antiquated science.

No comments: