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By now you've probably heard of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Texas man who was executed in 2004 for supposedly setting a fire that killed his three young daughters. His conviction was based on junk science, prejudice, and wild allegations about his homicidal tendencies based on his tattoos (really). The arson investigation that sent Willingham to the death chamber has been thoroughly debunked by no fewer than six arson experts, leading to one inevitable conclusion: Texas killed an innocent man.

Not surprisingly, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who signed off on Willingham's execution despite alarming proof of his innocence, has gone to great length to suppress this story. In the past two weeks, Perry fired four members of the state Forensic Science Commission -- including its chairman -- 48 hours before it was scheduled to hold a critical hearing on the Willingham case. He has appointed a new Commissioner, John Bradley, a district attorney and "one of the state's most notorious tough-on-crime advocates," according to the Texas Observer. The investigation is now stalled until further notice.



UPDATE: Execution Texas Style - Guilt Optional (Guest Voice) – The Moderate Voice

According to Professor James Liebman of Columbia University, author of A Broken System II: Why Is There So Much Error In Capital Cases: “The study found 76% of the state and federal reversals at the two appeal stages where data are available were because of egregiously incompetent defense lawyers, police or prosecutor misconduct, or misinformed and biased judges or juries.

He goes on to note that “82% of those retried after their death verdicts…were given a sentence less than death, and 9% of those retried – nearly one in ten – were found innocent.”

Professor Liebman learned one other unsurprising, but surprising fact. The unsurprising fact is that the more a state sentences people to death, the more often mistakes are made. Here’s the surprising fact: “This isn’t just a matter of numbers, this is about percentages. Everything else being equal, when death sentencing increases from the lowest to the highest rate in the study, the reversal rate increases six-fold, to about 80%.



リーブマン氏のインタビュー、読むべし。A Broken System II: Why There Is So Much Error in Capital Cases, Questions and Answers | Death Penalty Information Center