Gee Marty, tell us how your really feel!
This will be the second "court of inquiry" in Baird's court aimed at clearing someone's name posthumously. Despite Bradley's protestations about jurisdiciton, the statute governing the process allows the motion to be filed in any Texas District Court. Scheck was also one of the attorneys on the Timothy Cole case, along with Innocence Project of Texas legal director Jeff Blackburn. At Timothy Cole's court of inquiry, the prosecution chose not to participate, which turned the event into more or less a one-sided shadow boxing match. But since Willingham was executed and there are death penalty (and potentially even electoral) politics involved, there may be a lot more pressure on the Navarro County DA to oppose Scheck and Co., for which reason I'd be surprised if there isn't a lot more drama in the courtroom this time around. Definitely one to watch.
Relatedly, in my Inbox this morning I received notice from the communications director for the Innocence Project of Texas declaring:
Recently, the Cameron Todd Willingham case has raised serious questions about the Texas criminal justice system. To many, the issue is whether Texas executed an innocent man. To the Innocence Project of Texas, the questions raised by this case are much bigger. To us, the real issue brought up by the Willingham case is the ongoing use of junk science to falsely convict the innocent.These aren't the only murder convictions based on faulty arson forensics in Texas, but they're iconic ones. I still think it's a shame the debate over arson science has become so wrapped up in death penalty demagoguery on all sides, but cases like Sonia Cacy may help steer the conversation back toward faulty arson science and away from arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. In the bigger picture, though, there still needs to be a mechanism created by somebody - the best candidate is the AG, perhaps directed by legislation, or not - to go back through and vet older cases whenever disproven forensic methods may have convicted innocent people, as with older arson cases and dog scent lineups. If not, it will still happen piecemeal, as with these cases, but that leaves a lot of innocent folks waiting around, sometimes in prison, for someone to right an injustice.
One of the most telling instances of an innocent Texan being convicted on the basis of junk science is the case of Sonia Cacy. Sonia was wrongfully convicted of murder in Fort Stockton, Texas. The state alleged that she doused her uncle in gasoline and set him on fire. In order to prove their case, they used evidence provided by the Bexar County Forensic Lab indicating that gasoline was detected on the deceased’s clothing. Since that time, however, a number of experts have examined the results of the Bexar County lab’s testing and have all unanimously concluded that there is no indication of gasoline on the evaluated evidence. Based on this development and other evidence of innocence in Sonia’s case, it is clear that Sonia Cacy was convicted of a “crime” that never occurred. Despite that, she continues to live on parole but hopes to one day prove her innocence and officially clear her name.
MORE: On the Cacy case from the Texas Tribune. AND MORE: A commenter points out this story in the Corsicana Sun which informs us that the jailhouse snitch in Willingham's case, who is presently incarcerated in the local jail on forgery and marijuana charges, will likely testify at the court of inquiry.