Criminal defense in Austin Texas.

Cameron Todd Willingham, Part II

Posted By on October 27, 2009

I happened to catch a segment on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” about the Willingham case, called “Keeping Them Honest.” It’s interesting. The purpose seems to have been to impugn David Martin, Willingham’s trial lawyer. But what it actually did, at least from my point of view, was to demonstrate CNN’s sloppiness. Randi Kaye (CNN): “The prosecution had two arson investigors on the stand to prove that Willingham was guilty. Did you have an expert testify?” David Martin (defense atty): “We couldn’t find one that said it wasn’t arson.” Randi Kaye (in authoritative voice-over): “Couldn’t find one? But since the trial nine, that’s right, nine different arson experts have concluded the fire was not arson.” What Kaye either doesn’t know, or chooses to omit, is that between the trial, and now, there’s been a sea-change in the way experts go about testifying about fires. Specifically, much of what they thought they knew about how to tell the difference between an “innocent” fire, and arson, turned out to be wrong. In other words, it’s not so easy to identify arson as they used to think. The New Yorker, among others, has throroughly explored this part of the story. The misrepresentation changes the story from one about how careful you have to be, before condemning someone, to one about a bad lawyer. It’s too bad, because the real story was more interesting.


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