Sunday, October 07, 2012

Arson review 'picking up steam'

A couple of recent MSM stories focused on the review of arson cases being performed by my employers at the Innocence Project of Texas:
The Statesman by Chuck Lindell story opened:
A long-awaited review of old Texas arson cases — an unprecedented search for wrongful convictions based on bad fire investigation science — is picking up speed and will probably produce the first results in January, participants said Friday.

One suspect case has been identified and about 26 others are being scrutinized for evidence that investigators relied on now-discredited “myths,” instead of science, to determine that the fires were intentionally set, said Nick Vilbas with the Innocence Project of Texas, which is leading the review.

“We hope to be done pretty soon,” Vilbas told the Texas Forensic Science Commission during Friday’s meeting in Austin.

A panel of fire experts, assembled by new Texas Fire Marshal Chris Connealy, is scheduled to hear details of the first batch of suspect cases in January. Their findings would help determine how each case should proceed in the criminal justice system, Connealy said.
The IPOT review has only focused on cases where someone is still in prison based on an arson conviction and their methodology is not comprehensive, basically picking off low hanging fruit. But that's a great start compared to what's going on in other states, and sets a good precedent that, when forensic errors are discovered, old cases where potentially flawed forensics were used should be vetted for viable innocence claims.

See prior, related Grits posts:

No comments: