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From: Britta Slopianka
To: gojust ; inmateactivists2004 ; ips ; Lisbeth ; Pam
Cc: abolitionmovement ; Kati´s Group ; Lamp of hope ; Patrick ; Wanda´s Group
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2004 10:56 AM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] New findings cast doubt on Ardmore man's guilt
New findings cast doubt on Ardmore man's guilt
By Marsha Miller
December 12, 2004
"I'm angry at Texas but I want the people in Oklahoma to know he (Todd Willingham) wasn't the monster they said he was," Gene Willingham said Friday as he talked about new information released Thursday that could indicate his son was innocent.
"It can't help him now -- he's gone. But it may help others. It's already helped one man. It may make the courts take a little more time in what they're doing," Willingham said.
Todd Willingham was convicted in 1992 of capital murder
and sentenced to death. The case surrounded the 1991 fire that destroyed
his Corsicana, Texas, home just two days before Christmas and claimed the
lives of his three children. Willingham maintained his
"They (prosecutors) offered him life (before the case went to trial) if he would confess. He wouldn't do it. Then they (defense attorneys) tried to get my wife and I to convince him to confess. I said I wasn't going to do that. They said then you'll see your son dead in 10 years or so," Willingham said. "He told them he was innocent right up to the end. It was a raw deal all the way around."
The Tribune's investigation challenged the accuracy of
evidence presented by arson investigators at Willingham's trial and the
conclusions drawn from that evidence. Four fire experts who reviewed the
case called the evidence flawed and not scientific by
Kendall Ryland, a former fire instructor for Louisiana State University and chief of the Effie Fire Department, examined the facts and told the Tribune the fact that Willingham had been convicted and executed based on the flawed evidence "made me sick."
Ryland said, "They executed this guy and they've just got no idea -- at least scientifically -- if he set the fire, or if the fire was even intentionally set."
One of the other experts who reviewed evidence, trial
testimony and videotape of the fire scene last month was Gerald Hurst.
It was the second time Hurst had examined the case and the second time
he found the state's evidence lacking. Hurst had attempted to help
Even one of the Texas deputy fire marshal's who originally assisted in the investigation of the fire admits the current conclusions about the case have validity.
"At the time of the Corsicana fire, we were still testifying to things that aren't accurate today," Edward Cheever told the Tribune. "They were true then, but they aren't now."
Willingham's father says the Tribune's investigation won't bring his son back, but he feels it does vindicate him.
He recalled the final hours of his son's life, saying Willingham was accepting of his fate.
"He knew it was too late," the father said. "He was more worried about me, I have cancer, than he was about himself. I told him I would be all right and he said, 'I'm going.'"
The father mourned the fact that even minutes before his son's execution he was not allowed to touch him.
Marsha Miller 221-6529
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