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Texas EXECUTED an innocent person

Updated on May 2, 2011
 Cameron Todd Willingham
Cameron Todd Willingham

Murder by state

Before his trial in 1992, Cameron Todd Willingham refused to plead guilty to the murder of his children in return for a life sentence. For the next twelve years, he maintained his innocence even though he faced the Texas death machine. On February 18, 2004 he was executed.

Now, it appears that the state of Texas murdered an innocent man. In an article in the New Yorker, writer David Grann makes a compelling argument that the State of Texas ignored an experts report that a fire in Willingham’s Corsicana, TX house was an accident and not arson. Further investigations into the case by a board of Arson Experts reached the same conclusion. Texas will release its own report next year and the question is whether officials in the death state will finally acknowledge that they murdered an innocent man.

The facts of the case are simple. On December 23, 1991 Willingham’s wife had left to go buy a Christmas presents for his three children at the Salvation Army. Willingham went to sleep and was awakened by his daughter Amber calling “Daddy, Daddy”. Willingham said later that he could not get close to the children’s room. He rushed outside and yelled at a neighbor to call the fire department because his “babies” were inside. He broke out windows and tried to get to the children to no avail.

Policemen, firemen, and neighbors all said at first that Willingham was trying to get into the house and he had to be restrained. Other people reported that he was hysterical. His babysitter and his wife said his children were spoiled and that he could never hurt them. As a matter of fact, no motive was ever found for Willingham killing his children except that he was a sociopath and they crimped his “beer drinking and dart throwing” time.

Willingham was tried and convicted on evidence collected by Douglas Fogg and Manuel Vasquez, two state investigators who were convinced that Willingham had killed his children by using an accelerant because, according to them, the fire had at least three points of origin. The investigators concluded that Willingham was the only person who could have started the fire.

The trial lasted two days and the jury was out for about an hour. Willingham was sent to death row where he spent 12 years. They relied on the testimony of jail house informant Johnny Webb, who testified that Willingham had confessed to him that he killed his children. Webb has since been diagnosed as being bi-polar. The defense only called one witness.

A short time before he was executed, his case file was given to arson expert, Dr. Gerald Hurst of Austin. Hurst systematically and scientifically disproved all of the evidence against Willingham and sent a hastily written report to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole. This group never vetted the report and voted by fax to execute Willingham. One member said that the board had never once met to in person. Governor Rick Perry denied clemency to Willingham and the state killed him, even though another inmate was earlier released using the same type of evidence. Willingham went to his death protesting his innocence.

Now, faced with a mountain of evidence, the state of Texas has to look in the mirror and decide whether to be the first state to admit that an innocent person was executed. If it is true, there should be an immediate stop to the death penalty and every case that is suspect should be vetted to see if those who claimed innocence are lying or telling the truth.


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    • Attani profile image

      Attani 6 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Very sad. Texas is a weird place but it's not the only one. Anxious to kill and they've let serial killers out of prison. Pathetic.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      No doubt about it, Sir - your title says it all here. I live outside of Dallas, and have lived in and around Dallas most of my whole life. I know the story well, and have talked about it so much that I'm sick of it.

      It's hard to say that I hate someone, but if I hate anyone, then persons like Rick Perry, and Dick Cheney would definitely be some that I hate.

      But the death row murder assembly line rolls on.

    • electricsky profile image

      electricsky 6 years ago from North Georgia

      I never heard his story before. It turns one against the death penalty that is for sure.

    • profile image

      Saler 1 7 years ago

      And if the man is innocent?, then what?, who will answer? who will be held accountable? will they be held accountable? will charges be brought upon them, for with holding evidence that would of proven his innocence?(reckless endangerment)or, will this be swept under the rug? and another and another and another unfortunate person is faced with the same demise? How many times does this has to happen before it becomes wrong? or to be looked into with serious scrutiny? There nothing wrong with the laws, it is the persons who are enforcing and dispensing the way justice is to be served in their way, and those individuals need to be removed from their position. And prosecuted for violating the trust of the people. Remember they are under the same law the people are. When they took office, or was employed to work with any law and government, they took an oath and should be accountable for it. When they took an oath they put their hand on a bible and rose their right hand solemnly swear to defend the constitution of the united states,uphold it, and adhere to it. Now, did they in this case upheld the constitution of the united states? Did they adhere to it? Come on people we put them in office/position we surely can remove them from office/position

    • Joshua Kell profile image

      Levi Joshua Kell 7 years ago from Arizona

      Phuck the police! Forked tongued bitches! They will burn in a fire of their own construction.

    • habueld profile image

      Bruce Bean 8 years ago from Riverside, CA

      Rick Perry has fired all of the people in his administration who were working on the report about the execution of an innocent man.

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 8 years ago from Ohio

      I read the David Gran article. The sections about Gerald Hurst were amazing. They most definitely executed an innocent man due to the incompetent buffoons of a "good ol boy" legal system. It is sad that idiots infest the courts of the U.S. Anyone facing long term prison or the death penalty should have the absolute most competent people involved.

      In this case....all involved, including the parole board should be removed from the system, period. Texas is far from alone in this terrible problem. Every state has, prejudiced, incompetent morons employed' elected and appointed. That...we must fix!

      Thank you for writing this hub.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Texas is number one in executions in the U.S. and only a little bit behind Kazakstan the world. Bush and Speedy Gonzales were quite efficient at sending people to "Old Sparky." Not to mention Criminal Judge Sharon "Killer" Keller, winner in the worst woman in the world poll.