Monday, September 27, 2010

Hearing on Todd Willingham Innocence Case Set by Judge Charlie Baird for Oct 6-7 in Austin

From the Austin American-Statesman:

Sate District Judge Charlie Baird announced today that he will hold a two-day hearing in Travis County next week in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 in the 1991 arson murder of his three young daughters in Corsicana.

Lawyers for Willingham’s relatives on Friday filed a lawsuit asking Baird to hold the hearing to determine whether Willingham was wrongly convicted and whether there is probable cause to charge Texas officials with official oppression.

The suit claims that those officials, who were not named, committed that crime by failing to consider before Willingham’s execution that he was convicted on discredited arson science.

Several arson experts in recent years have rejected the science that the investigators who testified at Willingham’s trial used to determine that the fire that killed his daughters was intentionally set. The Texas Forensic Science Commission has been reviewing the science in the case since 2006.

The hearing has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 and 7.

Baird, right, wrote today in an e-mail to the American-Statesman that he has issued a bench warrant to have Johnny Everett Webb, who testified at Willingham’s 1992 trial, brought to Travis County for the hearing. Webb told a jury during that trial that Willingham, above, confessed to the arson while they were in the same jail.

Baird said that he has appointed a lawyer to represent Webb, who is incarcerated in Navarro County, during the Travis County hearing.

Lawyers for Willingham’s family served their 62-page suit along with the hundreds of copies of exhibits on officials at Gov. Rick Perry’s office, the state fire marshal’s office, the Navarro County district attorney’s office and the office of the state prosecuting attorney, which represents the state in cases at the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Baird wrote in today’s e-mail that he has mailed letters to those parties notifying them of the hearing dates and “invited them to attend if they wanted to present evidence on, for or against the issues raised in the petition.”

Read more about the Willingham family lawyers petition in Travis County here.

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