Sunday, October 18, 2009

Corsicana Sun hyping bogus Willingham 'confession' shames paper, state

Locals in Corsicana are circling the wagons on the Todd Willingham case, and they've enlisted the enthusiastic assistance of the local newspaper, The Corsicana Sun, to their cause. It's hard not to conclude the paper is embarrassing itself, their town and the state with ignorant, hyperdefensive attempts to counter conclusions by arson experts in the Todd Willingham case. (Indeed, I find such bad reporting nearly as noxious as Willingham's turncoat defense attorney, who Anderson Cooper said sounded more like a Sheriff in the case than a defense lawyer.)

Virtually everything the Sun publishes about Todd Willingham comes off as a parochial, naive, one-sided defense against recent challenges to the forensics presented at trial. I have no beef with advocacy journalism, so part of me thinks that the Sun adopting that role could serve a productive function. But in practice, they frequently allow local sources to make demonstrably inaccurate claims without contradiction. It's like they fantasize their readers won't also see coverage from the Dallas News or CNN, so they can just ignore widely reported facts instead of confront them.

The one that put it over the top for me came this week in a story titled "Affidavits dispute claims of innocence," in which the Sun published a five-year old affidavit based on disputed hearsay:
from Ronnie Kuykendall, brother of Stacy Kuykendall, who gave a statement to Kirby Hill regarding one of Willingham’s last visits with his ex-wife. Kuykendall said that on Feb. 8, 2004, a week before Willingham was to be executed, that Willingham’s ex-wife, Stacy called her family together to tell them about her last visit with her ex-husband.

“Stacy asked all of us to come into the living room, at this time she started crying and told us about her visit with Willingham,” Kuykendall said in the affidavit. “She stated that after visiting with him for about one hour and 45 minutes he told her that he had set the fire because he knew that she was going to leave him in January (1992) like she had said and that she was going to divorce him and he figured if he did this she would stay with him and she could get her tubes untied and that they could start another family and that he wanted her to write the board a letter because he did not want to die.”

Stacy Kuykendall has refused to talk to the media since her ex-husband’s execution. However, she spoke to Daily Sun reporter Loyd Cook in 2004, shortly before Willingham’s death.

At the time she said she was convinced Todd Willingham did kill their children.

Now check out David Grann's response to this surprising claim on the New Yorker blog to see how a real reporter analyzes such information when it's given to them by city government - i.e., critically. As it turns out, Willingham's wife has spoken to the media since her husband's execution, when she told reporters from the Chicago Tribune that her brother's affidavit was untrue. Whoops! But hey, why bother to report what she actually said when you can recycle hearsay from someone who wasn't there? Pitiful.

Investigative reporters from the Chicago Tribune were the first to break the story nationally about faulty arson testimony in this case, so if reporters and editors at the Sun haven't read that story, then folks in their shop aren't really even paying attention, they're just serving as a de facto bulletin board for local officials. The alternative conclusion must be that they have read the Tribune story but simply chose not to present facts to their readers that contradicted what local officials told them that day. Either way, this was hardly journalism's finest hour.

Even more embarrassing, the Sun actually misrepresented their own reportage of exactly that meeting. Writes Grann:
Stacy gave an interview to the Corsicana Daily Sun on February 8, 2004—the very day that Ronnie Kuykendall claimed Stacy had told him that Willingham had confessed. In the interview, she said that during her visit with Willingham he maintained that the fire was accidental and that their daughter Amber had likely caused it
So again, why disbelieve your own reporter, who talked to Ms. Kuykendall immediately after the conversation, and then present as some sort of new facts this old hearsay from her brother? If Grann can dig that story up from the Sun's own online archives, so can they.

There's lots more to talk about on this case than I have time to focus on, but the MSM and blogosphere are buzzing about it. If you're looking for more, Steve Hall at the Stand Down Project is pretty constantly rounding up coverage. Also check out:

100 comments:

editor said...

Grits,
One thing that has been bothering me about this story (besides the obvious biased reporting of the Corsicana newspaper, Perry's wrongful conduct, the DA (now Judge) and the original fire investigator making Texans look ignorant) is the fact that the opposite camp is saying that the faulty arson evidence proves Willingham innocent. This is incorrect, rather, it helps the case that he is NOT GUILTY, which is different than being innocent. Multiple times on the Nightline report and others, people who should know better made statements that this new science proves him "innocent." Being not guilty means the state has not proved the case against you. Being innocent (which is really a moral term, not a legal one) means you have done nothing wrong.

Just my 2 cents.
stircrazyintexas.blogspot.com

doran said...

Advertising Revenue. That's the bottom line for small town newspapers. That is probably what is motivating the skewered reporting by the Sun.

Years ago, the Editor of the Bastrop newspaper wrote an article critical of the then District Attorney. In the best tradition of small town, small minded district attorneys (they are NOT all like that, Tx), he complained to local advertisers. Ad revenue went down and eventually the Editor left town for obvious reasons.

Do you have any info about who, or what, owns the Corsicana Sun?

doran said...

editor, you are technically correct, but your analysis still misses the point.

Because most of us are not conversant and familiar with all the evidence adduced at the Willingham trial, we cannot say unequivocally that he would have been found innocent without the faulty arson evidence. That is, there may have been sufficient evidence to find him guilty. I can't conceive of how that could be, but I have to say it is at least a remote possibility.

It is even possible that if the new arson investigation techniques and protocols had been admitted at trial as rebuttal evidence by the Defense, a jury could have nonetheless returned a guilty verdict.

The point is not, at this time, Willingham's absolute guilt or absolute not-guilt. The point now is that the Beyer and other reports were sufficient to make a prudent Governor at least delay the execution, pending a thorough review, or to commute the sentence. Apparently, he would not even read some, if not all, of the material critical of the arson evidence.

Perry could have acted in a more prudent, less erratic manner. That he did not was amazingly stupid of him.

doran said...

I did exactly what editor correctly criticizes. Please change the offending language to read: "we cannot say unequivocally that he would have been found not guilty without the faulty arson evidence."

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I would blast the whole paper as they have done a fair job of linking to other reports, pro or con. Anything with a byline by Janet Jacobs fits well with your description of brethless advocacy. Acually I would go further and say it's just ignorant prattle, devoid of logic. I really suspect she must be related to one of the players. So as gatekeepers they certainly are not up to the task.
There is more coverage at DMN regarding this "confession" that goes a little deeper into the issue.
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/politics/state/stories/DN-arsonside_16tex.ART.State.Edition2.4bb033f.html

As for me the issue is not if he was innocent or not, but the fact that he did not recieve a fair trial.

Anonymous said...

The Corsicana Sun has reported both sides of the issue and linked reports and articles in their archives. They've done a good job of it, too. Of course, unless it's one sided, you see it as biased. Hilarious.

An attorney who is being attacked has the right to defend himself. So, all your grievances are worthless.

And, Grann only wrote a hit piece of the prosecution. He misrepresented facts and law in his article.

As to what his ex-wife said or didn't say: - someone should go ask her on tape whether it's true or not and end the controversy.

Anonymous said...

breathless prattle = David Grann

Anonymous said...

It has to be "on tape" to contradict a third-party affidavit from someone who wasn't there? The reporters to whom she spoke at the time aren't enough?

If it only counts when it's on tape, then the story doesn't matter anyway because even if Willingham had confessed, it wouldn't be on tape.

Anonymous said...

"As for me the issue is not if he was innocent or not, but the fact that he did not recieve a fair trial."

I agree with anon 11:39. But I would go further in stating that I am really bothered by the way Gov. Perry acted in both denying a stay of execution and in the dismissing those looking into the arson forensics of the case.

I understand that the justice system is far from perfect but what Perry and Willingham's defense attorney are doing now just undermines any faith the public has in it.

Checks and balances are put in place to correct wrongs that might have occurred. This can only happen if the stewards of at least one piece of the system act from reason and not the dictates of political pressure or their own prejudices.

I'm afraid Texas has failed miserable in this respect.

Anonymous said...

Having painfully experienced a small town circling the wagons when unfavorable publicity hits, I am not surprised by the Corsicana Sun!

Charles Kiker in Tulia

Anonymous said...

What we have here is Personal Interest and Self Image being more important than elected officials doing the job they are elected and paid to do. Having worked for a state agency for a number of years, I can tell you politics rule. I can't count the number of times our spin doctors did press releases that were pure BS to make a bad situation look good. Telling lies is stock in trade for appointed and elected state officials. Situational ethics are the mode of operation so our state and local officials can still feel good about themselves when they cheat, steal, and lie. When is the last time you heard a Texas politician or appointed official take responsibility for something gone wrong? Let me think back as far as my memory can go; how about never! The vast majority of politicians are corrupt lying dirt bags who have their hand out for the highest bidder. The party affiliation has nothing to do with my view on politicians, they are all corrupt for the most part. I have worked in close contact for many years with ilk and know their methods well. Thank God I was able to retire and get away from the trash who run our state.

We need term limits and strong ethics laws in Texas and the at the Federal level. At present we have the best government big money can buy. When you put money into the political system corruption comes along with it. Money and power have corrupted the vast majority of politicians so why would anyone be surprised that our governor could kill someone who might be innocent without a second thought.

My view of the news from the local paper is disinformation and cover for all the politicians who don't want people to know they may have killed and innocent person. It also helps ease their conscience!

Anonymous said...

Anon. 10/18/2009 11:52:00 AM

I suggested it be on tape because, otherwise, you and others would whine that it was not. True to form, you are doing a preemptive whine. Just can't please some people.

halides1 said...

If anyone has the slightest doubt about the objectivity of the Sun, consider the following paragraph from their September 9 "No Doubts" article:

"Evidence of accelerants was found, but Willingham had an excuse for that, too. Willingham told investigators he poured cologne on the children’s floor 'because the babies liked the smell,' he blamed a kerosene lamp for any accelerant in the hallway, and said spilled charcoal-lighter fluid happened while he was grilling, Fogg recalled."

I have heard it said from someone who saw the police record that Willingham put the cologne in the room AFTER the fire. One might blame Mr. Fogg for seeming to mislead the reader deliberately. Yet at the very least, the reporter might have checked record herself. Nor did she challenge Mr. Fogg's claim that they eliminated all accidental causes. From my reading of the Beyler report, they did not eliminate the possibility of the two-year old starting the fire.

Chris

dudleysharp said...

Chris:

I think you need to ask why Willingham would spread an ethanol based cologne in the children's room AFTER the fire. Why would anyone do that?

Duh.

Maybe it would have been inconvenient for the arson investigators to have found such ethanol was an accelerant used to START the fire. So, a, now, good excuse, would be to say, I put it in the children's room AFTER the fire.

Why else would someone do that?

dudleysharp said...

Could the beginning of a tidal wave of responsible journalism, in the Willingham case, actually begin with an op/ed writer, Rodger Jones, from the Dallas Morning News?

Read This:

http://deathpenaltyblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/10/the-case-for-willinghams-innoc.html

Snowballs in hell. But it's nice to dream. (Note, there have been several smaller media groups or individual reporters that have been responsible.)

Note to Mr. Jones:

Not only do you need to read "both the Beyler report and the Corsicana fire chief's tough rebuttal", as you rightly suggested, you must also read the trial transcripts and the police reports and the Texas Fire Marshal's report, when released.

When you look at the Corsicana Fire Dept.'s deconstruction of the Beyler Report, it makes you wonder how anyone could find the Beyler report credible, BEFORE seeing the rebuttal, much less, after. But, it's only fair to wait for a Beyler rebuttal, to it.

I think there is the real possibility that Beyler will, rather quickly, withdraw any further involvement and cooperation with the Texas Forensic Fire Commission. His NPR interview seems to foreshadow that. If such occurs, I predict that it would be under the guise of protest, but the real reason would, likely, be the professional spanking he would receive if he maintained his involvement.

I believe the Beyler Report is that bad. But, only time and more thorough investigations will tell.

The best outcome would be for Beyler to attempt being professional, to shut up, participate fully with the Commission, inclusive of his formal rebuttals, accusations and condemnations, as the case may be, and, then, when his participation with the Commission is formally ended, to blast away, if he feels the need and obligation to do so.

Beyler needs to stop his temper tantrums, for now. Idioticially, Beyler has demanded that Gov. Perry remove the 4 new appointees and re appoint those 4 removed.

It should make everyone question his sincerity, intelligence and character, to wit, he knows it will never happen, it is just silly grandstanding, if he believe it will occur, he's an idiot and/or it is a blatantly dishonest ploy to set the stage for his resignation, respectively.

I think Perry should shut up, too. He would, I suspect, if the media would follow Mr. Jones' lead and do what Journalism 101 tells them to do. OK, most pigs don't fly.

Could this case get any more nasty or convoluted? Now ask, could it have been this bad, behind the scenes, prior to Perry replacing the four commission members?

Just another unknown.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dudley, Beyler didn't "demand" Perry do anything, he just said what he believes should happen and characterized (IMO accurately) the negative impact of Perry shutting down the investigation. Your spin is very weak.

Also, I wouldn't hang my hat on that fire chief's report, as mentioned in this post. Most of that document has nothing to do with forensics and his scientific conclusions ignored modern forensic research in a manner that was shockingly distant from reality.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW Dudley, FWIW your commentary on this topic has made me question your "sincerity, intelligence and character" far more than Beyler's. Willingham can't be "proven" innocent, but there's no valid forensic evidence he was guilty and pretending otherwise is exceedingly disingenuous.

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I have, repeatedly, requested of many folks to become fully informed on this case, before reaching a conclusion. You know, read the trial transcripts, the police reports, etc. Silly stuff, like that. To little avail.

Bozos like CNN repeatedly say the fire was not arson. Like David Grann, fact checking appears hard for them.

On the confession, we have this, so far:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2009/10/david-grann-kuykendall-affadavit.html

It seems rather idiotic to bring this up, now, unless there is something new on the "confession".

I suspect Stacy Kuykendall may, at some point, have her own, non hearsay affidavit, on this issue, confirming or denying the statements of others' and, hopefully, bringing more clarity.

It would be nice if Grann, would make some effort to clear up all of his obvious errors in his own article.

See:

"Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty:
"Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/04/cameron-todd-willingham-media-meltdown--the-death-penalty.aspx

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article.

My article, above, was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below

2) EXCLUSIVE: City report on arson probe:
State panel asks for city response in Willingham case
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/news/local_story_276222736.html

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I have, repeatedly, requested of many folks to become fully informed on this case, before reaching a conclusion. You know, read the trial transcripts, the police reports, etc. Silly stuff, like that. To little avail.

Bozos like CNN repeatedly say the fire was not arson. Like David Grann, fact checking appears hard for them.

On the confession, we have this, so far:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2009/10/david-grann-kuykendall-affadavit.html

It seems rather idiotic to bring this up, now, unless there is something new on the "confession".

I suspect Stacy Kuykendall may, at some point, have her own, non hearsay affidavit, on this issue, confirming or denying the statements of others' and, hopefully, bringing more clarity.

It would be nice if Grann, would make some effort to clear up all of his obvious errors in his own article.

See:

"Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty:
"Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/04/cameron-todd-willingham-media-meltdown--the-death-penalty.aspx

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article.

My article, above, was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below

2) EXCLUSIVE: City report on arson probe:
State panel asks for city response in Willingham case
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/news/local_story_276222736.html

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I have, repeatedly, requested of many folks to become fully informed on this case, before reaching a conclusion. You know, read the trial transcripts, the police reports, etc. Silly stuff, like that. To little avail.

Bozos like CNN repeatedly say the fire was not arson. Like David Grann, fact checking appears hard for them.

On the confession, we have this, so far:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2009/10/david-grann-kuykendall-affadavit.html

It seems rather idiotic to bring this up, now, unless there is something new on the "confession".

I suspect Stacy Kuykendall may, at some point, have her own, non hearsay affidavit, on this issue, confirming or denying the statements of others' and, hopefully, bringing more clarity.

It would be nice if Grann, would make some effort to clear up all of his obvious errors in his own article.

See:

"Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty:
"Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/04/cameron-todd-willingham-media-meltdown--the-death-penalty.aspx

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article.

My article, above, was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below

2) EXCLUSIVE: City report on arson probe:
State panel asks for city response in Willingham case
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/news/local_story_276222736.html

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I most certainly do not hang my hat on the Corsicana FD report.

Contraray to what you say, it does, in fact, discuss some of the forensics in an important manner.

Furthermore, it discusses some ommissions and errors by Beyler, as well as other evidence that beyler, eidently didn't know about.

The FD is but one peiece of the puzzle that is making the whole case.

As I stated, to be fair, we need wait for a Beyler rebuttal, if one may be forthcoming.

I think what we do have, with the FD report, it that folks are waking up to the fact that many had made up their minds, when there was not enough information to do so.

As

Anonymous said...

11:44, someone did ask her and she saiud there was no such confession and that her brother lied.

As for printing both sides, they have yet to ask a single critical question of either. They're just letting people write in anything they feel like saying. One reporter did say that he covered the dcene of the fire and knows that the fire fighters had to keep Willingham from going back into the house, which is the opposiyte of what the prosecutor and many others (who were not there) have said. But that's it.

Doran, they're not intentionally skewing anything, that paper is just not good.

As for the people claiming that we need to read the police reports, they are unreliable. The prosecutor and cops reachjed their decision, and recorded "discrepancies" that supported their bias from the start. We know the confession and wife beating was a lie, the wife said so herself. But the cops and prosecutor pushed it as fact through trial and to this day.

The one thing we know is that Willingham was right: his trial was a sham.

Anonymous said...

So how did Beyler conclude the fire started? Can we get a copy Of Willingham's confession posted here?

Anonymous said...

Dudleysharp, the wife told a former reportere of the Daily Sun (who actually asks people questions before writing an article), that there was no such confession by her huusband. An affidavit is unnecessary, it's already been annswered.

Your dishonesty is transparent.

Also, for the record, the current judge in town is James Lagarmasino. The prosecutor in the Willingham case was a judge for a while, then retired. Don't mix James up with John Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Did prosecutors every theorize a motive? Was there life insurance on the children? If so, who was the beneficiary? When were the policies taken out?

Was there insurance on the house?

Anonymous said...

Grits, you could have knocked me over with a feather when you accused the Coriscana newspaper of "advocacy journalism!" The fact of the matter is that the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle have ZERO credibility on matters related to capital punishment. These rags make absolutely no pretense about their anti-death penalty bias. How anyone can accept any of their "reporting" on matters related to the death penalty is totally beyond me.

Your criticism of the local press in Corsicana and the local media smacks of elitism. It's no wonder that folks in rural Texas harbor an "us against them" mentality as it relates to criticism from the "big city" press and anti-death penalty establishment. I have read very few accounts of the Willingham case in the MSM which objectively report ALL evidence of Willingham's guilt. Dudley Sharp's suggestion that you read the trial transcript has merit. As much as you'd like to believe otherwise, it's not an easy task in Texas to convince 12 jurors to find someone guilty of capital murder and sentence them to death. It sure takes a lot more than a little forensic testimony from an arson investigator.

A more pressing concern at the moment seems to be the objectivity of Dr. Beyler who was evidently paid $30,000 or more by the Forensic Science Commission for his "opinion." This man is identified as the contact person for "Litigation Support" for his employer Hughes Associates, Inc. on its website. In other words, he's a "hired gun." Why did the FSC have to go out of state and pay this kind of money for this opinion? Texas has one of the best fire science and arson investigation programs in the world headed by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) in College Station. Surely someone with TEEX would have been qualified to review this case.

The fact of the matter is that everyone around the capital knew that when the Forensic Science Commission was created by the legislature in 2005 and championed by Sen. Whitmire, that it was nothing more than a Trojan Horse for the anti-death penalty establishment. Why else would they have only one prosecutor on the commission? The time and money they've spent on the Willingham matter (in concert with the liberal media) is troubling. Not coincidentally, in this morning's Houston Chronicle former Governor Mark White (Democrat) is quoted saying the death penalty should be abolished in Texas and using the Willingham case as an example. The MSM criticism of Gov. Perry and the good people of Corsicana wreaks of a political agenda and is the real travesty in this instance.

dudleysharp said...

Anonymous said:

Dudleysharp, your doshonesty is transparent.

Anonymous, you're a maroon:

As I wrote:

On the confession, we have this, so far:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2009/10/david-grann-kuykendall-affadavit.html

before continuting your maroonness, read what folks write, PRIOR to responding.

OK?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:44:00 says that "An attorney who is being attacked has the right to defend himself." Yes - a right to defend him/herself against allegations made in the context of a bar grievance or a formal allegation of ineffective assistance. Even then, disclosure of the client's privileged material e.g. the preparation of the defense, is only permissible to the extent necessary to rebut the allegation. The Willingham trial lawyer seems to be entirely ignorant of those limitations, and of the rules of ethics generally. Simply trumpeting, in response to media articles, that your former client was guilty is totally beyond the pale. It is sometimes galling for a defense attorney to have to listen to criticism without being able to respond, but that's one of the costs of being a professional -this lawyer should read the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct and park his ego at the door in future.

Grandmom said...

As far as I know, neither Dudley Sharp nor Anonymous are maroons. I, on the other hand, AM a Maroon. Anyway, what does graduating from Austin High have to do with anything?

dudleysharp said...

Grandmom:

"Maroon" was great term that Bugs Bunny often used, while walking away from Elmer Fudd, or others, after BB had to death with their idiocy.

"What a maroon."

Many think it was BB's mispronunciation of "moron". I always liked to think of it as a mixed up combination of baffoon and moron.

Maroon just makes it much more lighthearted.

Anonymous said...

"A more pressing concern at the moment seems to be the objectivity of Dr. Beyler who was evidently paid $30,000 or more by the Forensic Science Commission for his "opinion."

Well, this is interesting. $30,000for someone's testimony.

Grits, if this true, have you reported this in your blog?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know what Beyler was paid for preparing his 50+ page report, but I don't see why it matters. It's disingenuous for anyone to expect him to do it for free. Being paid doesn't mean he's biased - after all, the arson investigator who testified at Willingham's trial drew a paycheck, too. Should we assume that means he had ill intent?

In this case, the people paying Beyler were a bunch of Rick Perry appointees and they did not dictate the outcome of the study. They just wanted the best qualified national expert they could find, and Beyler was it. Among his many other credentials on the topic, he happens to be the chairman of the International Association for Fire Safety Science.

Besides, a half-dozen other arson experts have reached the same conclusion - are they all biased, anti-death penalty activists, too? Dudley might think so, but to me it seems unlikely.

Anonymous said...

"Being paid doesn't mean he's biased"

Well that's a startling comment from you Scott. After all, you are against jailhouse snitch information. Course that doesn't mean that snitches are biased, especially when they get something in return for their testimony, like a reduction in sentence or charges being dismissed.

And if the defense attorney didn't question the state expert about what he got, well that's a shame and incompetence.

dudleysharp said...

It doesn't matter how much Beyler was paid. All that matters is if the report is thorough, unbiased, accurate.

So far, nope.

With experts, we often have this problem.

Expert A. preeminant in their field is 100% sure of their evaluation. Expert B. preeminant in the same filed, is 100% sure that expert A is dead wrong.

This has infected the criminal justice system and the publics view of experts.

It's a real problem.

Anonymous said...

I just read Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullen's "rebuttal" of Dr. Beyler's report to the TFSC and, although lengthy, found it to be nothing more than reiterative of the trial transcript. Why does he think a commission investigating forensic techniques and methods of fire science needs his opinion about any other matter, particularly witness testimony? We know for a fact how faulty eye witnesses and their memory can be.

We know court appointed lawyers in Texas are allowed to sleep through death penalty trials and appellate courts at all levels will let it slide.

We know that police routinely work a case backwards; rather than following the evidence to find the truth, they instead determine guilt on a "hunch" and then proceed to fabricate the evidence they think they need to get a conviction.

McMullen takes Beyler to task for his use of the phrase "standard of care" in the 2nd point of his General Observations. To McMullen this phrase is only allowed to be used while referring to medical matters. He then extrapolates that Beyler's use of the phrase is somehow proof that his entire report is biased.

In my life I have had the privilege to travel and work with people from nearly every part of our country. What I have found is that there are pockets of peculiar nomenclature where people use what I consider strange terms to refer to everyday stuff. That's just the way it is. Rather than be pedantic and anal I realized I needed to expand my horizons and try to understand others. Just because I was raised in Texas doesn't mean it's the center of the universe.

I don't know enough to decide if Willingham was wrongfully executed or not. I do believe this issue should be discussed without introducing politics or half-assed parochial stereotypes of devil worshipers and other assorted demons.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dudley, you're completely FOS in your last comment.

In the case of arson, forensic standards changed in the early '90s after scientific methods utterly debunked old methodologies. The Corsicana investigators relied on old, outdated, since-disproven methods, while Beyler and the half dozen other experts were relying on actual science-based analysis, not folklore and pseudoscience. There simply are no modern arson experts who will agree with the Corsicana fire chief or Mr. Fogg.

Here's the apt comparsion: It's as if, post-Keppler, non-scientists continue to cling to beliefs about the earth being the center of the universe despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. You can pretend both sides have equal merit, but it's not true. The arson investigation was based on assumptions that have simply been disproven by modern science. Continuing to claim otherwise frankly discredits you MUCH more than it does Dr. Beyler.

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

Always the thoughtful poster, you are.

Of course, I know about the standards, now, many of whcih were used at the time of the Willingham fire, as you may know.

As you know, the current Fire Chief's report is in light of the newer standards, which were more widely accepted around 1998.

Hensley, the police fire investigator at the time of the fire, is now a certified arson specialist, well aware of all of the current statndards, to which he adheres.

Here is what he has to say about Beyler:


Hensley has since become a certified arson investigator. In hindsight, he insists they took the right steps with the evidence in the Willingham case.

“We did everything we were supposed to do,” he said.

Hensley also dismisses Beyler’s report, pointing out that Beyler didn’t talk to the investigators, and reading the testimony can’t replace first-person observations.

“You can find expert witnesses everywhere, and if you pay them enough they’ll testify to anything,” Hensley said. “They’re to be bought.”

Willingham was tried for murder, not arson, and the guilty verdict was based on the whole picture, not just part of it, he said.

“You can’t just look at a little part. Look at the whole picture, and that’s what the jury did,” Hensley said. “If a 2-year-old wakes you up and there’s smoke and fire everywhere, aren’t you going to at least get that one out? It couldn’t possibly have happened the way (Willingham) said.”

Willingham’s behavior afterwards did not help his case. Todd Morris was the first police officer on the scene and he found Willingham trying to push his car away from the house to save it from the fire, while his children were inside burning up, Hensley said.

dudleysharp said...

Here is an almost unbelievable example of how bad the Beyler Report can be:

p 46 "The appearance of brown stain on the porch at the front door was taken as an indicator of an accelerant spill which was ignited to start the fire. "AC Fogg did not consider or explain how this could be true in light of the early eyewitnesses who saw no fire on the porch or at the front door."

Dr. Beyler, try this.

Willingham lit the fire from the porch, as the fire traveled inside, the fire died down on the porch, as the accelerant was consumed. The fire travels down the hall into the children's room, the fire expands in the bedroom as it ignites all of the flammables.

Everyone who has used lighter fluid in grilling, knows that if you spill some on concrete or wood and it becomes ignited, it'll burn for a few seconds and then it just goes out. Of course Beyler knows that. Everybody knows that.

Beyler really is THAT bad.

Secondly, Beyler has no idea how long the fire had been burning, prior to the "early witnesses", yet, Beyler presumes, with NO evidence, that these eyewitnesses should have seen fire on the porch or doorway. Dr. Beyler, just because they didn't see a fire, doesn't mean there wasn't one, set on the porch, earlier, when Willingham lit it. Reread the above.

Beyler appears to be creating alleged evidence to exonerate Willingham. It makes no reasonable sense and conflicts with any notion of a scientific method.

It's, blantantly, a bad sign of the Beyler Report.

Then, Beyler presents this:

p46 "The only basis proffered for Willingham as the fire setter was that had the hallway been subjected to an accelerant spill, he could not have escaped without serious lower body injuries."

If Willingham was on the porch when he lit the fire, how and why would he have serious lower body injuries going through the hallway?

Beyler is that BAD.

If Willingham decided to stay in the house and travel through the hallway, after he lit the fire, the fire could have remained very small in the hallway, when only a small amount of accelerant was used. There would be no reason for him to suffer any lower body burns.

Or better yet, Willingham could have exited the house in many other wasys, other than the hallway and still made it to the front porch.

Is Beyler a moronic defense attorney or an arson expert?

As I have stated, repeatedly, depend on more evidence not less and wait upon rebuttals, prior to reaching a final conclusion. Read everything available.

Beyler Report http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=10401390

Anonymous said...

Dudley, you post so much shit and often it's multiple posts of identical shit like you posted here and on DMN that I have to weed through every little thing to find the facts and separate them from the bullshit.

Why don't you chill out and learn how to use your computer and the internet before making yourself the poster boy for killing every motherfucker accused of a crime?

Or at least learn how to stop being such a spamming little weasel.

dudleysharp said...

anon:

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dudley, it's clear that your posts are as result-oriented as the prosecutor and Rick Perry.

You should just stop now. You're baring your ass with every post.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day no one can refute the fact that the arson forensics were flawed. There are just too many disconnected experts saying the opposite of what the local fire investigators testified to. These together with the Willis exoneration should be enough to convince anyone that Willingham never should have been convicted.

But they are clinging to the other "evidence," the statements from others that he said this and that. He said he ran out the back door and he said he ran out the front door. He said he kicked the door in or he kicked it out or he touched the handle and it wasn't hot.

He stood on the front porch screaming his babies were burning up or he sat with his arms crossed ignoring the obvious fate to his daughters.

He moved his car (so did Willis) but was that motivated by a selfish concern for a material object or a belief that the gas in the car could cause an explosion?

According to the investigators he said many inconsistent things to many different people, both in the moments after he exited the house and in the days and weeks thereafter.

His neighbors and in-laws said he was a wife beater and the lead investigator has said he thinks Willlingham was a devil worshiper. But then his wife has denied all that.

Now it surfaces that his ex-brother-inlaw filed a worthless hearsay affidavit claiming Stacy said Todd confessed a few days prior to his execution, even though various news organizations dispute this according to interviews they had with her at the time.

And so it's all a big Bleeding-heart Librul conspiracy to...fuck I don't even know what. But is interesting that one death penalty supporter compared all this to the health care debate.

It's not politics you fucking "maroons", it's people's lives. But then justice wouldn't matter to people who cheat and buy everything they have.

halides1 said...

DudleySharp,

First, your comment does not address, let alone refute, my point: the investigators made it sound as if Willingham put cologne on before the fire when it was put on afterwards, and the reporter lapped it up instead of challenging it. Second, you have no evidence to back up your implication that Willingham used ethanol. Third, some perfumes and colognes use isopropanol, not ethanol, so trying to cover up the use of ethanol with a cologne does not make much sense. Fourth, the theory put forth by the investigators was that lighter fluid, not ethanol, was used in three places to start the fire.

Willingham said that “babies liked the smell,” or words to that effect. It sounds to me as if he were sending off his daughters into the next world with something that they thought smelled nice. Why do some people put coins over the eyes of the dead? It is just a ritual. The cologne may have been Willingham’s private ritual.

On another subject, Dr. Hurst was not paid for his report. So Mr. Hensley’s comments are inapplicable to him.

Chris

Acerbic said...

halides1, you have to believe that a guy who coldly planned and executed the murder of his three precious baby girls could somehow trip things up so badly in his statements to investigators, neighbors and family that he didn't have a clue what to say afterwards.

With all the lying that is obviously going on I have my doubts about the trial testimony. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

I think it was be useful for someont to post the educational backgrounds, experience and qualifications of the Fire Chief and those of Dr. Beyler. I think it would be interesting to see who is the most qualified.

Acerbic said...

Anon 8:52, the fire chief just came out of the woodwork on his own accord. His opinion was neither solicited nor wanted by the commission. In any case the issues he touches upon are more concerned with matters of law than fire science.

But he's from Texas so apparently that gives him more credibility than someone from New Jersey, despite academic and professional credentials.

dudleysharp said...

Chris:

Thanks for your comments.

On the cologne, I am sure I don't have all the info on this, yet, just as very few have read the trial transcripts and the police reports. Allegedly it was British Sterling cologne, which is ethanol based. If I recall, the cologne was identified in the Corsicana fire dept report.

I would not attempt to refute your point. I don't know if it is true or false.

Based upon the totality of what I do know, the spreading of the cologne after the fire seems mighty suspicious.

Yes, it could have been Willingham's private ritual, if the ritual includes, hey fireman, I just poured cologne in my babies room, just in case you happen to find some in there.

The theory on the lighter fluid is based upon the presence of lighter fluid. Of course, cologne was not excluded.

The paid comments by Hensley are, for me, pretty worthless.

I just thought it best to put in his full quote.

ACERBIC:

The Corsicana FD report was solicited by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, as per the opening paragraph for the report.

Please review: http://static.cnhi.zope.net/corsicanadailysun/images/City_of_Corsicana_response.pdf

Anon:

Thank you.

Boyness said...

Texas doesnt just look ignorant...WE ARE IGNORANT!!

Boyness said...

GRITS...I have an idea. NO MORE ANONYMOUS POSTS!

Acerbic said...

DUDLEY:

I would love to have seen whatever you think you think that link supports. Problems is, it's a bad link.

dudleysharp said...

Acerbic:

The link works fine.

It was just to confirm the correction of your error, as was the topic.

Anonymous said...

Dudley that link only works if you select and copy the entire line the style-sheet cuts off the tail end of the URL, at least it doesn in Internet Explorer.

Here is the same link using the HTML achor tag: City_of_Corsicana_response.pdf

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dudley, I won't refute most of your errors because I don't have time, but the fire chief's report was utterly ignorant of modern standards, historic standards, or really anything at all about arson science. He accepts Beyler's statements about current science but admits he knows nothing about the issue himself. Most of his report has nothing at all to do with arson science, and the parts that do are laughably bad. Virtually every "science" point he argues is from old-school arson investigation methods and he doesn't know they've been debunked.

Somewhat similarly, you quote Beyler critiquing Doug Fogg's original report, but the statement you're critiquing came from the original investigators about acceleratnts on the lower extremities, etc.. You're actually arguing for Beyler's position on that point but apparently don't realize it.

If you don't like Beyler, try critiquing similar findings in this report. Or is every arson investigator in the country except Mr. Fogg an anti-death penalty activist in your view?

dudleysharp said...

Anon:

Thanks. My link works fine, as well, for me.

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

You have gone from silly name calling to making things up.

Ugh.

Didn't there used to be a more thoughtful Scott? I bet he's in there, somewhere.

1)I have never called nor thought that all or any fire experts in this case are anti death penalty activists.

2) I presumed Fogg was in error on that point and that Beyler was correct. Presumed.

3) You don't corect my "errrors" because you can't. There aren't any. We may have a difference of opinion, which is normal and dandy. Part of blogging reality.

4)The fire chief was nor devoid of modenr standards. It appears you don't know what modern standards are. For example, if Beyler only went one direction in some of his analysis, that is improper, if another direction offers some probabilities. That is what experts are supposed to do. I will refer you to that section in the manual, if you wish. I don't have it handy, now. The fire chief is entitled to his opinion, based upon those standards.

5) As th chief said, he had little time and was missing much evidence for his review. He, now, has more time and, hopefully, will have greater access to the evidence and will issue and updated report. We can hope for that.

I am sure that we both do, as all.

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I read the Innocent Project Report a while back.

I recall, specifically, that they found that it was not an incindiary fire.

Of course, they provided no evidence of that and no other source for the fire.

So, discounting their statement is quite easy and goes to lack of credibility/clarity/proof/evidence/etc.

In reality, if you read the IP report, it is very much like Hurst's and Beyler's.

The body of the report does not and cannot say or make a finding that it wasn't arson and cannot say that it was accidental, based upon the facts in their review.

to wit:

Limitations of Forensic Fire Science ONLY

From page 51 of the Beyler Report (BR): “A finding of arson could not be sustained".

Why? Per the BR , all of the descriptions of arson, by the original investigators, are no different than what an accidental fire would look like or what an accelerant/arson fire MIGHT look like after a flashover rendered the arson evidence indistinguishable from an accidental fire.

Therefore, a finding of arson cannot be sustained.

Sure, it may be arson. It may definitely be arson. Everyone could agree that it was arson.

But, based only on the BR, the forensic fire science evidence, which may have made the arson indistinguishable from an accidental fire, by a flashover, means that a forensic science finding of arson cannot be sustained.

But, forensic fire science is far from the be all, end all.

For example, Willingham decides to videotape spreading the accelerant and lighting the fire.

The tape is in evidence.

That doesn't change the BR. Based upon, only, the BR interpretation of the forensic fire science it is still indistinguishable from an accidental fire, because of the flashover.

The BR forensic fire science evaluation, by itself, cannot sustain a finding for arson.

But, it definitely was arson.

Or the tape is not in evidence.

The BR's forensic fire science findings would still be the same, even though 12 years later, the tape turns up.

Definitely arson.

Now, instead of a video, there is a whole bunch of other evidence which points to arson. (1)

For example, look at rape/murder. The forensic science has identified the suspect by DNA. Is that the be all end all? Of course not. It's the husband's DNA. However, the husband didn't do it. Further investigation, evidence and facts found that the true rapist/murderer used a condom.

If you have not done so, read the Beyler Report. There is never a finding that it was not arson and there is never a finding that it was accidental.

Based solely upon the science and the evidence, as per BR, there never will be such a determination. There can't be.

As Gerald Hurst said it is impossible to determine the origin of the fire." (2) Hurst agrees with Beyler, based, solely, upon their fire science interpretations.

Dudley Sharp

(1) see trial transcripts, police reports, the Corsicana Fire Dept report, below, as well as the pending Texas Fore Marshal's report.

Corsicana Fire Dept.: Willingham Matter

http://static.cnhi.zope.net/corsicanadailysun/images/City_of_Corsicana_response.pdf

When you look at the Corsicana Fire Dept.'s deconstruction of the Beyler Report, it makes you wonder how anyone could find the Beyler report credible, before seeing the rebuttal, much less, after. But, it's only fair to wait for a Beyler rebuttal, to it.

(2) Begin at first "p 15" paragraph, about 1/3 down:

"Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty: "Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann, New Yorker

http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/04/cameron-todd-willingham-media-meltdown--the-death-penalty.aspx

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article. My article, above, was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below:

Corsican Fire Department: Willingham Matter
http://static.cnhi.zope.net/corsicanadailysun/images/City_of_Corsicana_response.pdf

halides1 said...

Dudleysharp,

On the question of isopropanol in perfumes or colognes, please see: http://chemeducator.org/sbibs/s0014001/spapers/14090010jc.htm

More generally, I would say that the onus is on the state to prove arson, not on the individual to prove it was not. Dr. Beyler makes it clear that the investigation was deficient even by the standards of its time. Subsequent work, for example on the phenomenon of crazed glass, all tends in one direction, against the finding of arson.

Anon at 8:52 PM,

Dr. Beyler is chairman of the International Association for Fire Safety Science.
He holds a B.S. degree in fire protection engineering from the University of Maryland, a B.S. in civil engineering from Cornell, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Cornell, an M.Sc. in fire safety engineering from the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. in engineering science from Harvard. Dr. Hurst holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Cambridge University.

Chris

dudleysharp said...

Chris:

You are misinterpreting the evidence.

For example, you write:
"Subsequent work, for example on the phenomenon of crazed glass, all tends in one direction, against the finding of arson."

No, it does not, the crazed glass may ONLY be the product of the water from the fireman, causing an effect on the hot glass.

It has nothing to do with the fire being arson or not.

The water nor the glass tells of arson or accident.

Zero impact on an arson determination, by itself.

------------

During trial, of course, the onus is on the state to prove arson. During appeals, it is up to Willingham to prove it is not. The burden shifts.

However, what we are dealing with now, is, post execution, that Beyer can'r determine arson and can't determine an accident. Period.

Other evidence, may or may not prove arson.

We have to wait and see.

halides1 said...

Dudleysharp,

With due respect, you are misinterpreting my words. Crazed glass was thought to be evidence of arson and was brought up at Willingham’s trial (http://www.truthinjustice.org/willingham.htm). As you correctly state, it is understood that cold water from firehoses produces crazed glass, thanks to examination of the Oakland Hills fire. Crazed glass used to be taken as evidence of arson, but it does not indicate how a fire started; therefore, the trend favors the defense’s case. One wonders whether the jury would still have voted the way that they did with these and other facts at their disposal.

Best regards,

Chris

dudleysharp said...

Chris:

My apologies, I did misinterpret what you said.

Yes, Beyler's crazed glass analysis does contradict the grazed glass as a product of arson/

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dudley, you're the one who started the "name calling". In fact, the only "names" I called you were in quotes because I was repeating was EXACTLY what you called Beyler. I did so to point out that the same criticisms are MUCH more applicable to you and all you've written on this topic. Don't dish it out if you can't take it.

As he himself admitted, Beyler's report couldn't determine for sure whether the fire was or wasn't arson. But he can and did show that ALL of the evidence from the fire investigator testifying at trial who claimed it was arson is scientifically insupportable. Many other arson experts agree. That's a much bigger deal than you're giving it credit for.

Bucky said...

Just FYI almost every cologne or perfume will have an ethanol base.

The federal government actually authorizes the following formulas for cologne:
38–B, 39, 39–A, 39–B, 39–C, 40, 40–A, 40–B, 40–C.


In practice the one you'll see listed most often is SD Alcohol 40 because it is cheap and doesn't have a strong scent of its own. If you look up the formula options for 38-B you end up wondering how you could possibly make cologne out of that unless you are just shooting for something that smells like food! But I digress...

It probably doesn't matter much since the combustion products of EtOH and IPA would be basically identical especially in a house fire with such a heterogeneous array of combustibles. Once the firemen quench with water it will be so much harder to detect than the typical polar accelerants because they not water soluble unlike the lower weight alcohols.

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I can take it. I've been in this debate for a long time. You have just become much less thoughtful than you once were.

You're a good guy. Act like it.

Anonymous said...

You may enjoy this song about the joys of arson. The lyrics are simple but creepy.

Acerbic said...

Dudley, no you can't take it. You have yourself convinced of something that just isn't true and now you are trying to make it a personal thing between you and Scott. That is typically what the debate loser does.

All your nonsense has been refuted over and over again yet you persist in spewing your propaganda with your worthless copy/paste links and parroting of the pro death-penalty crowd. It gets old.

It's obvious your tactics are to just bitch and whine until you wear your opponent down but that won't make you any less wrong.

dudleysharp said...

Acerbic:

You claims are contradicted by the evidence.

If I couldn't take it, I would have left.

Please identify on what I have been proven wrong. Be specific. I will respond.

PeeWee said...

Secret video of Acerbic vs Dudley debate leaked to the intarwebs!

Acerbic said...

Haha!! Thanks, I got a good laugh out of that.

Acerbic said...

Ten years ago this month a young lady was kidnapped, raped and murdered here in our area. She was only 10-years old...she was playing out in front of her house when this piece of garbage came along and did the most unspeakable, evil things. He got the death penalty and no one is arguing about it. Certainly not me. I would be first in line to break this fucker's neck.

I'm not anti-death penalty, I'm anti-injustice. Some people just don't get the distinction.

dudleysharp said...

Pee-wee, thanks.

Acerbic, a very sad case, indeed.

Acerbic said...

Dudley I'm with you brother. There are crap piles masquerading as people who need to be snuffed, and the sooner the better. I just want to make sure they are guilty before we pull the trigger. It's much cheaper to keep then locked up for life than to do the execution thing. No matter how you look at it it's not working. And you know it.

There is just no good reason to be executing convicts when we can lock them up for the rest of their lives while there is any doubt about our means of determining guilt. Once they're dead you can't undo it.

Why are people in such a big rush to kill the accused? And once they're dead they bitch and whine whenever anyone wants to revisit their case.

It seems pretty obvious who is the piece of shit here.

dudleysharp said...

Acerbic:

I don't know of anyone that wants to execute innocent folks.

The cost issues are more in doubt than you may know.

"Cost Savings: The Death Penalty"
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/05/07/cost-savings-the-death-penalty.aspx

The reason folks support the death penalty is the same reason that they suppot all sanctions, they find them just and appropriate.

I find that the death penalty protects innocents more than does LWOP.

"The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/07/05/the-death-penalty-more-protection-for-innocents.aspx


It doesn't seem that folks are in a big rush to execute. Of the small percentage executed, on average, they are executed after 10years of appeals.

I wouldn't call anyone a POS, here.

Acerbic said...

Dudley,

If you can't see that Willingham's execution was wrong then, by definition, you are someone who thinks innocents should be killed.

The forensic evidence used to get the conviction was bogus, and then the prosecutor used a laughable theory about devil worshipers to convince the jury he was a continuing threat to society to hit his "home run" and get a death penalty verdict.

You'd have to believe in voodoo and Santa Clause to buy in to this kind of "justice". I'm afraid that's exactly what the citizens of Corsicana did.

But we can't know if the politicians keep shutting down inquiries the way Gov Hair has done.

It's one thing to argue a point, but quite another to support a cover up of facts. Texas has a bad track record and everyone knows it. The time has come to balance the books and rednecks who live in that fucked up state who call themselves Americans need to wake up and quit fantasizing about independence. You belong to a union and that's just the way it is. Live with it.

Karo said...

You live in a fantasy world if you believe Willingham was actually innocent.

dudleysharp said...

Acerbic:

I have, intentionally, never commented on the right or wrong of Willingham's execution.
o, I am not sure what you are speaking of.

Your ridiculous presumption that I approve of executing innocents has no foundation and is absurd.

It appears you think Willinham's execution was wrong. Do you? If so, why?

I don't think we have a final answer on the forensics, yet.

I haven't read the trial transcrits yet, so I don't know how much the "devil worship" really meant.

It remains to be seen if Perry shut down the inquiry or only delayed it. My guess is that it is only a delay.

It is, seemingly, impossible to cover anything up in the Wilingham case. Everything is pretty much out in the open. All Perry di was bring more scritiny.

dudleysharp said...

my typing is horrendous. sorry.

Anonymous said...

Grits for Breakfast hyping bogus innocence claim shames blog, state, and our intelligence.

Stacy Kuykendall's statement about the 1991 fire

Posted Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009

Stacy Kuykendall, the ex-wife of Cameron Todd Willingham, offers her first detailed account of the 1991 fire that claimed the lives of her three daughters and led to Willingham’s execution in 2004. “Todd set our house on fire then stood outside and watched it burn,” Kuykendall asserts, saying she agrees with Gov. Rick Perry’s portrayal of her husband as “a monster.” Here is the full statement:

[The reporters lied.]

On October 18th I read that David Grann said that the Chicago Tribune reporters, Steve Mills and Maurice Possley, tracked me down and interviewed me about my ex-husband and if he in fact confessed to me. He wrote that I firmly said that Willingham had never done so. I have never been formally interviewed by any reporters. Mills, Possley and Grann have all come to my home uninvited to ask me questions about my ex-husband. I told them all that I no longer believe that Todd was innocent, that he did murder my daughters and I did not want to talk about that which had to deal with him. I was asked why I didn’t believe that he was innocent and my response was, after reading statements, mainly Todd’s, that first of all, he gave conflicting stories of what happened the day of the fire and secondly after visiting with him on death row that he was guilty. I was asked what was said the day I visited with my ex-husband. I told them that I believed that was personal and would not respond to the question. I asked them repeatedly to leave my property.

On December 23rd, 1991 I was taken to the hospital and told that my three daughters had died in a house fire. Cameron Todd Willingham, the girls’ father, was at the hospital alive. When I saw Todd after having been told about my daughters, the first thing I asked him was if he could tell me why I was just told that my babies were dead and he was still alive. Todd just looked at me and had nothing to say. I left the room and returned to my oldest daughter and later that evening I returned to the hospital where Todd had been admitted. When I got to Todd’s room he told me that he heard Amber, our two-year old, yelling, “Daddy, Daddy”, he got up, put his pants on, told the two-year old to get out of the house, then said he went into the twins room, got down on his hands and knees feeling around on the floor for the babies. He even told me that he thought at one time he had found one of the twins but that it was a teddy bear instead.

Todd said that the fire was so bad that he got out of the room and made his way to the front door. He said that the front door was on fire so he had to kick and keep kicking the door down so he could get out of the house. Todd’s feet were not burnt at all. This was the first story that Todd told us about that day. That night I remember sitting in his room looking out the window and him telling me not to worry that we could get my tubes untied and have more children. I couldn’t believe what he had just said to me. I had my doubts about what Todd was saying about what happened that day. After Todd was arrested and told his family that he didn’t do this, I had to believe that he was telling us the truth. I was 21, just lost all my children and now everyone expected me to believe that their father did this.

cont'd...

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/1709042-p3.html

Anonymous said...

cont'd:

In another statement Todd told he woke by hearing Amber yelling, “Daddy, Daddy”, realized the house was on fire, told Amber, a two-year old, to get out of the house. He went to the twins room, got on the floor and tried to feel for the babies. He said he was unable to find them so his made his way out of the room and to the front door but only this time in his story the door wasn’t on fire so he was able to just open the door and walk right out of it. Amber didn’t get out of the house when Todd told her to. She was only two. I can’t think of many two-year olds that would know how to get out of a burning house. Before Todd was executed he confessed to his family that he never went into the twins room at all to try and save them, that he had lied about it. Actually, he stood outside of our home as the house engulfed in flames knowing his three daughters were inside.

When Todd told me that he wasn’t going to testify on his own behalf I could not believe it. How could someone say he is innocent and not testify on his own behalf? I kept thinking he should have been up on that stand screaming that he was innocent. Todd and his family were satisfied with the lawyers that he had during the trial. He spent eight months with both lawyers before they went to trial. He didn’t call his trial a joke until after he was found guilty.

Twelve years after Todd was sent to death row I went to visit with him. I believe it was two weeks before his execution. There were no harsh words said between us, neither one of us blasted the other. We sat across from each other in a very calm manner.

At first, there was just small talk between us. Todd said after twelve years it seemed hard for him to say anything. I told him that I would start by asking him a few questions and then he could do the same. I asked him to tell me what happened the day of the fire, he responded with, “I woke up by Amber’s voice yelling, Daddy, Daddy, got up, told her to get out of the house and then went into the girls’ room, got on the floor to search for the twins, it became way to hot so I got out of the room and headed to the front door and exited the house.”

I then asked Todd if he remembered what he had told me while in county jail before his trial. I reminded him that he had already told me that he never attempted to go into the girl’s room and try to save them, that he actually got out of bed, told a two-year old to get out of the house and then walked out the front door. I asked him why wouldn’t an innocent man testify on his on behalf? Todd said it was because he told different stories about what happened that day and once you have said it you can’t take it back. Todd told me several times about the Board of Pardons and Paroles which reviews applications for clemency. He told me that he didn’t feel that he had any rights to ask me to write a letter on his behalf to the Board but could I just think about it and I told him that I would.

Anonymous said...

cont'd:

He stated that he believed since I was the mother of the girls and if I were to ask them to give him a life sentence instead of execution that he may get it. He gave me the name of his lawyer so I could contact him with the information on what I would have to do. We talked about his execution. He told me that he had blocked it so no one could witness it. I told Todd that I had also blocked his execution. Todd did cry a few times during our visit he said it was hard for him to see me and sit across from me. I just let Todd talk and I listened. I think we both knew at this point it may be the last time we ever would speak to each other again.

He told me he was sorry for everything he had ever done to me. He told me that he did know that I loved the girls more than life itself. He then talked about the board of pardons and paroles again and he told me if he could get a life sentence instead that he promised me that he would never get out of prison. I told him once more that I would think about it. We talked some more and then he asked me what time it was. I didn't have a watch so he told me to ask the lady sitting next to me. I did and told him the time. Todd said that they would be coming for me in ten minutes that our time was up. He seemed to be a bit nervous and put his head down and started to cry again.

He asked me if I remembered the last time we had gotten into a fight and he hit me. I told him yes when I was holding Amber. He asked if I remembered what I had told him that I was going to do after the first of the year. I said that I was going to divorce you. He said the night before the fire we got in to an argument and you had said it again that you were going to divorce me. I told him yes I did say that. He told me that he believed I was going to but he couldn't let that happen. Todd told me that it was stupid but it was like an obsession. He said if I didn't have my girls I couldn't leave him and that I could never have Amber or the twins with anyone else but him. He told me he was sorry and that he hoped that I could forgive him one day. He said once again I have no right to ask you for a life sentence but Stacy no one wants to die. He said he had a lot of people fighting for him and that he would die saying that he was innocent. I looked at Todd and I told him that you are right no one wants to die and neither did my three daughters. I stood up walked out and I never looked back.

I did witness Cameron Todd Willingham's execution. Todd set our house on fire then stood outside and watched it burn. He knew our three daughters were inside this home taking there last breath. He watched them die. I felt like the only thing that I could do is watch their murderer die. I wasn't there for closure. My closure was when he told me what he had done. I stood on the behalf of my three daughters. Todd's final words never mentioned his daughters but yet I keep hearing what a loving father he was. Todd spent his last words expressing his love to his prison pen pal Gabby and then he addressed me. He told me repeatedly in obscenity-laced language that he hoped I would "rot in hell" and attempted to maneuver his hand, strapped at the wrist, into an obscene gesture.

For all of this to be brought up again has been extremely painful for me and my family. How many more times do we have to see in detail that burned house were my daughter died! I have carried this pain for 18 years now and will for the rest of my life. I can say that I am a very strong women but having to listen to this every day again is starting to take its toll on me. I pray daily for my babies to have some peace and my family to stop being harassed.

Governor Rick Perry called Cameron Todd Willingham a "monster" and indeed he was. Nightline ran story titled "A Life Cut Too Short." There were three life's cut too short and their names are Amber Louise, Karmon Diane and Kameron Marie.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anon, if they'd quoted her instead of hearsay she'd contradicted in their own coverage from the day she last talked with her husband, I wouldn't have said that about the Sun. This doesn't change how sloppy and pathetic their reporting was.

My own claim has not been that Willingham was "innocent," but that the arson science was faulty and he shouldn't have been convicted. At the time, his wife didn't think so either, of course.

dudleysharp said...

Scott:

I don't agree with you when you say: "My own claim has not been that Willingham was "innocent," but that the arson science was faulty and he shouldn't have been convicted."

Looking at Hurst, Innocence Project and Beyler Reports, the bottom line is this, it may have been arson, it may have been an accident.

Beyler is the official rebuttal, now. He appears to be looking worse and worse as time goes by. So, as always, we need to wait and see.

We have only seen the partial rebuttal to Beyler, via the Corsicana Fire Deprt. Report (CFDR), which I suspect will be greatly expanded, now that they have additonal time and evidence, both of which they said they were lacking for their first report.

Even so, the CFDR made a ggod case for error and bias by Beyler. In addition, I and others, inclusive of the Dallas Morning News, have found some credibility problems in the with Beyler. I think those will expand over time.

Furthermore, the Texas Fire Marshal's (TFM) office has ststed that they are going to stand by their investigator's, Vasquez', report. That is the report/person that Beyler ripped to shreds. Meaning, in order for the TFM to stand by Vasquez, they will have to rip Beyler.

In additon, there is a ton of other evidence pointing to Willingham's guilt.

So, Scott, I don't know how you can say, now, that you don't think Willingham should have been convicted.

Have you:
1. read the trial transcripts;
2. read the police statements;
3. read the updated CFDR:
4. read the TFM report;
5. read Beyler's rebuttal to the CFDR and TFMR?


As I have, repeatedly stated, it is much better to wait for all the evidence and any rebuttals to it.

halides1 said...

Dudleysharp,

The rebuttal to the Beyler from Corsicana did not have much discussion of the forensics; therefore, these sections are not refutations of Dr. Beyler’s work at all. I have seen people make the unsubstantiated claim that his work is anti-death penalty propaganda, but he has disavowed any political motivations. You have said that with time his report looks worse and worse, but your most recent post gives no arguments or facts to substantiate this claim. On the other hand, his report is buttressed by the fact that several of the most well-known arson experts in the world have said similar things over the last five years, and some of them appear routinely as witnesses for the prosecution.

Chris

dudleysharp said...

Chris:

We disagree. The CFDR has specifics to forensics and specifics that matter. In addition, Beyler's evidentiary errors are stark.

I suggest you re read the Beyler Report and the CFDR.

As noted in the Dallas Morning News, Beyler used Willingham as a source for a fact to make a point, when the actual evidence contradicted Willingham's claims.

Big Problem.

But, we've got a lot more time ane material, yet, to see.

TDCJEX said...

If in fact Mr Willing ham confessed during visitation at Polunsky you can be sure that the conversation would have been released by now . Apparently most do not know what happens on Polunsky Death Row once you get a “date”

To be very clear they do not get contact visits if they are on DR on Polunsky or Mountain View for that matter

In TX once you are given a date you are moved to which is on A Pod . Usually the DR captain or major will ask you what you want done with your belongings and your body .

About a week prior to execution day you are placed in a camera cell where every thing you do is recorded . All visits are non contact bullet proof glass separates the prisoner from the visitor . They talk via phones which are monitored All of Mr Willingham's conversations would have been recorded so the state might be able to find something it can use in fighting a appeal .

Mr Willingham had filed appeal based on innocence and the findings of Gerald Hurst . There is no ta chance he would confess . The jailhouse confession is not credible as has been shown . Only a total idiot would confess to a crime while awaiting trail . Grits has had a great deal of threads on Snitching . Try reading them .

The kill em all and let God sort em out crowd cannot wish or make him guilty with increasingly bizarre statements . That he had tattoos swore listened to heavy metal and was not a saint does not mean he was guilty . All the extraneous nonsense to show he was not Mr Perfect does not make him guilty .

Dudley you are being less than honest by not stating your involvement with the pro prosecution , pro death penalty political organization Justice for All (none ) . Which by the way supports Sharon Keller !

Your taking things out of context is at minimum misleading Also you might want ot warp inot the 21 st century . Hunches and guesses are not real science .Junk science does not have a place in the court room .

It seems the Kill em all crowd needs Mr Willingham to be guilty even if it means making up false information The actions of Perry and his crony John Bradly are very telling .Not to mention the Corsicana Sun's not looking into it's own archives !

dudleysharp said...

TDCJEX:

I am being quite honest. First, I haven't been with JFA for years.

Secondly, even if I was, it wouldn't matter. Arguements and positions stand or don't stand, not based upon membership, but based upon their content.

I don't need Willingham to be guilty.

I want the same thing most of us do. A full resolution to this case, wherever it may lead.

TDCJEX said...

Dudley Give it a rest .

It is clear you have some personal involvement in this and desperately need Mr Willingham to be guilty you want one and only one out come . Anything else must be wrong or the work of anti Death Penalty activist . That sounds more like some of the conspiracy types who think there is a hidden agenda behind everything unless it completely agrees with your beliefs .All those experts are wrong and are all anti Death Penalty activists .That is not even reasonable or rational .

You have been spewing this nonsense every where you can . Because you need Mr Willingham to be guilty . Perhaps the execution of a innocent man is that damaging to your extreme pro Death Penalty position ? It is very obvious in all you say it is as if you are trying to conjure him guilty .

Because you cannot get it you make stuff and distort things . So he was not a living saint I and had a minor record that does not make him guilty so he swore at his wife . Who knows how they will act if they were about to be executed?

A persons membership in political organizations in this case tells us what you position is in your case a extreme one that is perfectly acceptable to execute innocent ole . That tells us that you find human life expandable so long as some one is executed for “finality” .
so Yes being pro Goodhair , Pro Prosecution, Pro Death penalty even in the case of innocence all together matter it show your deep bias in the face of reality or inability to accept TX executed a innocent man . Your argument has zero merit you just keep repeating the same things endlessly sort of if you tell a lie long enough people believe it .

The whole lie about his confession as I posted what transpires at a visitation in Polunsky while on Deathwatch . Every thing is recorded . Had their been such a conversation Gov Good hair would have released it a long time ago . There was not a confession . It never happend .

You conviently ignore that part that TDCJ would have a recording of such a comverstation and the state would have used it in figting his last appeal. If such a converstaion took palce we all know Goodhair would have relased it long ago .



You certainly are not doing the death penalty any favors . Then admitting a innocent person was executed takes away your whole argument . It is therefore reasonable to conclude you are unwilling to admit it is a even possibility he was innocent

dudleysharp said...

TDCJEX:

I think all, but a few idiotic anti death penalty types, hope that Willingham was/is guilty.

The rest of your comments have nothing to do with me.

TDCJEX said...

That is simply not true and does not make any sense at all . Now your being irrational .

Then what the founder of Justice matters a Pro Death Penalty and Pro Prosecution .Whose sole credential is a expeired real estate license ! ) OH your website is JFA So who is FOS

A littel about Dudley Crawford Sharp IIIs' "exeprtise" and CV note the lack of a law degeree and education as well as his telling staements about any one who opposes the Death Penalty

http://deathpenalty.procon.org/viewsource.asp?ID=6754


My coments have every thing to do with you. Those are your bizzare and tenous claims for Mr Willinghams guilt .

If you want to make distortions of a facts in public eventually you get called on it . Now that the confession part is out you are not so happy . So now what I suppose you will be back to him being a "Devil Worshipper " .

Mr Google is very useful Dudley Crawford Sharp III !


As They just keeping him honest

Anonymous said...

note the lack of a law degree

You're right. Scott Cobb lacks a law degree.

and education as well as his telling staements about any one who opposes the Death Penalty

Yet, Sharp can correctly spell the word "statements" and make more rational arguments than you.

Karo said...

It is abundantly clear that the anti-death penalty crowd hopes an innocent man was executed... no they need an innocent man to have been executed and they will ignore all evidence of guilt. There is zero evidence that Willingham was anything but guilty.

You DP activists need to wait for a DNA exoneration because you are making fools of yourselves over this Willingham case.

TDCJEX said...

Anti Death penalty people do not need Mr Willingham to be guilty or innocent . Random chance and investigative reporting happened to bring up his case . I agree With Scott's statement that it would have been better if this was not a Death Penalty case so the focus could be on false convictions and how they are obtained .False convictions are a serious problem in TX .

Certainly a DNA case would have been more damning though the actions of Goodhair and his cronies speak for themselves . They are the actions of some on with something to hide

Every so called proof of guilt has been dis-proven some boarder on slander . It is more telling that the Hard core Pros will not even entertain the idea he might have been innocent . That new evidence was available To at least allow him new trial .

You give away what the death penalty has become revenge and any one will do as long as some one is convicted and executed . That is not justice . Notice the Willis case is not disscused by same the “ Tough on Crime “ types .

If you ever find yourself in the defendants chair in TX and it could be you as things stand now Will you still believe in myths and folklore . You will no longer admire and support the likes of Sharon Keller . If you say you have not committed a felony you are wrong each of us commits one on average twice a week ans do not release it due to there being so many 2300 + in TX and then federal felonies you probably committed one today. Go research it


Beylers full report can be read hear it discuss both fires Willis and Willingham and concludes neither where arson . It completely contradicts what was used to convict MR Willingham and Mr Willis

http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/shared-blogs/austin/investigative/upload/2009/08/execution_based_on_bad_investi/D_Beyler%20FINAL%20REPORT%20082509.pdf

That is why Goodhair refuses to release anything and Had his buddy John Bradley take over the Commission . Only a fool cannot see though that . If it said it was a arson it would have been released ASAP Just like the non existing confession .Or the testimony for a snitch who is Bi Polar heavily medicated hoping for a time cut or reduction in his robbery and forgery and charges . That would call his testimony into question in fact he says so himself .

http://www.snitching.org/2009/09/new_yorker_articleof_experts_a.html .

The case is not about the death penalty in the end but junk forensics , snitch testimony an police and prosecution misconduct .

That is what matters not some one living in a time warp or upset because there is a huge problems with their argument in that mistakes happen in a human system and it hurts their agenda .

Oh yeah name calling and insults do not make you right it does how ever show you have lost the debate . OH I made a Typo that make me wrong WOW !

Hopefully soon you both will sit in the defendants chair someday on trail and go to TDCJ .maybe you will re think your outdated views of how a criminal trail should be conducted . With 40 exonerations and counting in TX alone that should raise concern Not ignorant extraneous arguments about the death penalty or increasingly far fetched comments about Mr Willinghams case .

Anonymous said...

Every so called proof of guilt has been dis-proven some boarder on slander.

Hey! Guess who else lacks a law degree - YOU. You outed yourself by not knowing that the tort of defamation does not survive death.

Also, a real attorney would know how to spell the word "border" correctly.

Everybody - ignore what this poseur, TDCJEX, says.

TDCJEX said...

Guess again . The statements made about living individuals are very close to slander and lible . The coment was a about the all of the false coments made . Not just a selective few . Most of those invloved are still alve.

That means those made about living indivuals made and you just outed your self Go think about it
.

I never claimed to have a law degree . A Estate might be able to take you to court if your coments include them . That means those who were misqouted or had thier statemnts altered

But in TX

The definition of libel in Texas includes written words that "tend to blacken the memory of the dead"

You Tough on crime types are grapsing at staws and makeing irelevlent arguments arguments now you put words into others mouths .


I think you can guess by my name I probably do not have a law degree .

Had this not been Death Penaty case the Pro DP tpyes would not be bothered . That they re speaks for it self .

Oh another typo make me wrong ? that realy is grapsing for a something that just does not exist , showing how desperate you are in a losing arguement .That you have resort to tossing out insults shows your ignorance and intolralceforany other line of . Not to mention that yourealy do not have a argument .
Come up with somethingsubstains niot myths wishful thinking and folklore .

FWIW
Many attorenys do not type well that is why they have asssitants . Typing skills have nothing to do with intelligence making fun of them does however .

halides1 said...

Bucky,

I contacted the chemist who wrote the paper on the link I included. He said that he had tested a very small set of colonges and perfumes, but they all contained isopropanol. Also, one person with whom I communicated suggested that Willingham was trying to cover up an accelerant by spreading cologne. I do not see how that is possible.

Chris

Anonymous said...

Hey Cletus, why don’t you wipe the drool off your chin and stop writing about slander. Unless you can dream up some scenario in which there are actual monetary damages as a result of the alleged tort it is a moot point.

You'd have a better case going after Craig Beyler for defamation and I only mean better to the extent that zero is greater than zero.

TDCJEX said...

So name calling makes you right ?

I know the Cyber bully deal if you cannot win with words insult the person and some how you magically become right . Also being annoymous helps.

Try reading the words close to as in it could be .

Claiming all the highly educated people who have looked into the fire and said it was not arson are all anti Death penalty activists is not a smart thing to do . Nor does it make any one right .

Grits is right that this being a death penalty case takes the focus off what got convictions .
That is what people should be concernd about .Not that he was executed and very possibly innocent .

That is lost in the debate becuse no one on the Pro Death Penalty side wants to admit that in all likely hood TX executed at least one inncent man . Good Hairs behavior speaks loud and clear so do those who defend the prosecution in this case .

Any one who clains not a single innocent person has been convicted or executed is not being honest or lives in a alternet universe were the state is infallible .

It is not probable that a innocent person has not been executed or convicted it not even close to reality . It isvery simple math go look up probablity instead of tossing out insults

TX has 40 exonerations to show that false convictions happen .If false convictions happen it is very likely innocet poeple have been executed

Doing the math one can estimate 10 % of TDCJs population is inncent that is about 15,000. There is not any excuse for that .

Anonymous said...

That means those made about living indivuals made and you just outed your self Go think about it

I can only go on what you wrote which implied that Willingham was being slandered, which of course is nonsense on so many different levels. Also, I have seen no evidence of slander against anyone living.

I did not insult you. Don't whine about being held to the same standard that you tried to hold others. You've been insulting Sharp right and left. If you are not an atty, your opinion is worthless.

p.s.: Attys don't use secretaries to type on blogs. They do, however, use spellcheck.

TDCJ EX said...

Anonymous Cyber bully

I did not insult Sharp I just exposed him for who he is and what he is . That is not an insult .
That is letting others know where he comes from . By showing others for who he is is not an insult it is just keeping him honest .

If Sharp wants to toss out insults at any one who even thinks there is a problem with TX Justice he certainly can expect to get an earful..

But you another who believe in the infallibility of the state seem to ignore every thing any one who you disagree with says or make fun of it . Why not respond in a reasoned well thought out manner ? Possibly because there is not one ?

OH I think I know a lot about TDCJ and TX justice from a view I sincerely hope one day you get to enjoy .You would not do very well on a TDCJ unit


Too bad some one who know about about Polunsky came along and ruined the whole confession lie .Imagine that or did the Tough on Crime types think that they knew how TDCJ runs its units and what really goes on in them ? Too bad .

If you are so obsessed with typos perhaps you should see a psychiatrist for that .

Then you have not answered one thing any one has said but sit at a key board and because you have no argument .
Your cyber bully tactics don't work with me .

Anonymous said...

TDCJ EX: Again, you do nothing but insult people and whine when people hold a mirror up to you. Give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

The probability that at least one innocent person has been executed in Texas is very high.

The probability that any particular executed person was innocent is very low.

The probability that Mr. Willingham was innocent is very low.

Consider this: if Mr. Willingham was the only person telling the truth about the circumstances of the fire then, according to his story, he was napping when his two year old daughter Amber awakened him about the fire. He yelled at her to "get out" and then he left the house and left her and infant twins to die. Her body was found in his bed so maybe he was telling the truth.

So even if everyone else was mistaken or a liar except Willingham who was telling the truth then a reasonable person might conclude that Willingham knowingly caused the death of his daughter Amber, an individual under six years of age. In Texas we call that Capital Murder.

So now, in my best Sharon Killer voice, I declare that "If there was any error in this case, it was harmless error. We affirm the conviction."