That's the title of a major article in the September 7 issue of the New Yorker. It's written by David Grann. LINK Here's the beginning of this must read:
The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Diane raced down the street to get help he found a stick and broke the children’s bedroom window. Fire lashed through the hole. He broke another window; flames burst through it, too, and he retreated into the yard, kneeling in front of the house. A neighbor later told police that Willingham intermittently cried, “My babies!” then fell silent, as if he had “blocked the fire out of his mind.”
Diane Barbee, returning to the scene, could feel intense heat radiating off the house. Moments later, the five windows of the children’s room exploded and flames “blew out,” as Barbee put it. Within minutes, the first firemen had arrived, and Willingham approached them, shouting that his children were in their bedroom, where the flames were thickest. A fireman sent word over his radio for rescue teams to “step on it.”
More men showed up, uncoiling hoses and aiming water at the blaze. One fireman, who had an air tank strapped to his back and a mask covering his face, slipped through a window but was hit by water from a hose and had to retreat. He then charged through the front door, into a swirl of smoke and fire. Heading down the main corridor, he reached the kitchen, where he saw a refrigerator blocking the back door.
Todd Willingham, looking on, appeared to grow more hysterical, and a police chaplain named George Monaghan led him to the back of a fire truck and tried to calm him down. Willingham explained that his wife, Stacy, had gone out earlier that morning, and that he had been jolted from sleep by Amber screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!”
“My little girl was trying to wake me up and tell me about the fire,” he said, adding, “I couldn’t get my babies out.”
The Innocence Project has issued a news release, "New Report Shows that Cameron Todd Willingham, Executed in Texas in 2004, Was Innocent."
An exhaustive new investigative report shows that Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004, was innocent. The report comes three years after the Innocence Project released analysis from some of the nation’s leading forensic experts who found that the central evidence against Willingham was not valid. The Innocence Project also obtained public records showing that Texas officials ignored this evidence in the days leading up to Willingham’s execution.
Willingham was convicted of arson murder in 1992 and was executed in February 2004. His two young children died at a fire in the family’s Corsicana, Texas, home. At Willingham’s trial, forensic experts testified that evidence showed the fire was intentionally set. A jailhouse informant also testified against Willingham, and other circumstantial evidence was used against him.
A 16,000-word report in the September 7 issue of the New Yorker deconstructs every facet of the case, finding that none of the evidence against Willingham was valid. Prior to the New Yorker’s investigative report, by David Grann, the forensic science had been debunked as completely erroneous (including in a 2004 investigative report in the Chicago Tribune), but the other evidence was never examined closely.
“The New Yorker’s investigation lays out this case in its totality and leads to the inescapable conclusion that Willingham was innocent. There can no longer be any doubt that an innocent person has been executed,” said Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. “The question now turns to how we can stop it from happening again.”
“As long as our system of justice makes mistakes – including the ultimate mistake – we cannot continue executing people,” Scheck said. “This case also highlights serious problems with forensic science in this country. The vast majority of forensic scientists are honest, capable, hard-working professionals, but we aren’t giving them the tools they need to do the job. Congress needs to create a National Institute of Forensic Science that can spark research to determine the accuracy of forensic disciplines and set standards for how our system of justice uses science.”