Thursday, August 12, 2010

Texas Admits It Executed an Innocent Man. Pennsylvania Works to Execute a Likely Innocent

JusticeArson "science" of the late 1980s, early 1990s was worse than a joke. It was a collection of ideas that had never been tested, and failed to stand up when they were tested. None of that stopped courts from using it to send men to death row. Junk science? Another inmate on death row fights to disprove arson -
Last month, a Texas state board admitted in a preliminary report that flawed arson science was used in Willingham's investigation.
Willingham was executed in 2004 on "evidence" that was more likely explainable as just the result of flashover.
The National Fire Protection Association, a fire safety organization, reported there were more than 200,000 intentional fires set to structures in 1980. In 2007, that number dwindled to 55,000.
That missing 145,000 arson fires is not because arson went out of style, it because today, they just wouldn't be considered arson. They are explainable as natural fires.

But all those fires were treated as crimes back in the day. People went to jail. Some to their death's because of "evidence" that was more like folk tales.
Until 1992, some arson experts say, guidelines for determining arson were largely based on hand-me-down myths practiced by fire investigators with little formal training. In 1992, the National Fire Protection Association released its first arson guidebook based on years of studies and simulations.

The guidelines, known as NFPA 921, were initially met with resistance from fire marshals and officers across the country, who believed arson investigations were an art rather than a science.
Met with resistance because it contradicted their cherished beliefs. (And their over-inflated sense of their own worth.)

And based on those cherished beliefs, and not on any science, Texas convicted and executed a man.
The fire that killed three people in the Willingham case in Texas happened in 1991, a year before NFPA 921 was released. In February 2004, Willingham was executed. Later, three reviews of evidence by outside experts concluded the fire should not have been ruled arson. The reports stated a flashover was likely responsible for the fire at Willingham's home.
So much for justice.

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