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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Text of Petition for Court of Inquiry Filed on Behalf of Todd Willingham's Family in the 299th District Court

The Court of Inquiry convened in response to this petition filed on behalf of the family of Todd Willingham has been scheduled for 1:30 PM on October 6-7, 2010 in the 299th District Court in Austin. 

Location: 
Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center
509 West 11th, 8th floor
Austin, Texas 78701





Petition to Convene a Court of Inquiry and for a Declaration to Remedy Injury to Mr. Willingham's Reputatio...

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Court of Inquiry to determine if Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully convicted and executed

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

AUSTIN -- A Travis County judge today ordered a court of inquiry to determine if Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully convicted and executed in the deaths of his three daughters, who perished in a Corsicana house fire in 1991.

Judge Charlie Baird, who also conducted a court of inquiry that led to the exoneration of wrongfully convicted inmate Tim Cole of Fort Worth, told the Star-Telegram that he has decided to move forward with the court of inquiry into the Willingham case after reviewing a petition filed Friday by lawyers representing Willingham’s relatives.

“I have decided that the petition warrants a hearing,” Baird said in a telephone interview. The inquiry will be held in his courtroom on Oct. 6-7, but Baird said it could be extended if necessary.

Willingham was found guilty of deliberating setting the fire that killed his daughters -- 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron. The unemployed Corsicana mechanic went to his death in 2004 insisting that he was innocent.

The case became the center of national attention after several fire experts concluded that the arson investigation against Willingham was flawed and based on outmoded techniques. It has also been the focus of a controversial review by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which opened an inquiry into the arson investigation in 2006.

Baird said he made his decision early this morning after staying up until midnight Sunday reviewing the 55-page petition.

“Obviously the most troubling aspect of this -- and it just dwarfs everything else – is whether or not to believe that an innocent person has been executed by the State of Texas,” he said.

The inquiry could lead to Willingham’s posthumous exoneration if the findings warranted, said Baird. He said he has no preconceived view on Willingham’s guilt or innocence but felt that questions raised by Willingham’s case justified further examination.

“I agree with them that they’re entitled to a hearing but I wouldn’t say at any level that he’s innocent,” Baird said. “A lot of this stuff has either been done piecemeal or in secret and this will bring it all to light.”

Baird said he has ordered a subpoena to demand the appearance of the jail trusty who testified that Willingham admitted the crime while he was in jail awaiting trial. He also sent invitations to Gov. Rick Perry’s chief counsel, the Texas Fire Marshal, the Navarro County district attorney and the state prosecuting attorney, but said their appearance wasn’t necessary.

Perry has defended the execution, describing Willingham as a “monster” whose appeals were repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts. Willingham supporters have accused Perry of interfering with the commission’s inquiry by ordering a shakeup of the membership during a crucial phase of the inquiry, but the governor has dismissed those assertions.

Baird said he could make a ruling within two weeks after the court of inquiry concludes it review.

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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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Friday, September 24, 2010

Video Coverage of Today's News about Possible Court of Inquiry in Todd Willingham case

Video from Fox 4 in Dallas.


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Exoneration of Todd Willingham Sought in Court of Inquiry Hearing in Austin

The Austin American Statesman is reporting that lawyers for Todd Willingham's family are asking for a Court of Inquiry to exonerate Todd Willingham. Cory Session, brother of Timothy Cole, advocated for a Court of Inquiry in the Todd Willingham case when he spoke at the Texas Capitol on October 24, 2009 during the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty (watch video).



From the Statesman:
Setting the stage for what could be an extraordinary court inquiry into whether Texas executed an innocent man, lawyers for relatives of Cameron Todd Willingham, put to death for the 1991 arson murder of his three young daughters in Corsicana, on Friday petitioned a judge in Travis County to hold a hearing on whether Willingham was wrongly convicted.

The lawsuit was filed with state District Judge Charlie Baird, who last year issued the state's first posthumous DNA exoneration in a rape case originally tried in Lubbock. Baird is a trial judge who previously had nothing to do with the Lubbock or Willingham cases.

Willingham's execution six years ago has received national attention. 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 began reviewing the Willingham case in 2006 but has not reached any conclusions. Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, the chairman of that commission since last year, said in an interview Friday that Baird does not have the legal authority to consider the Willingham case. "I would say the political end for this one is to abolish the death penalty," Bradley said.

In a later e-mail, Bradley suggested that the Willingham family lawyers improperly filed the case directly with a judge who he said "has no public to hold him accountable" because he isn't running for re-election. Baird is a Democrat whose term on the 299th District Court expires at the end of the year.

Baird agreed last year to hear the Lubbock case, centered on the wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole, who died in prison, under a provision of the Texas Constitution that states, "All courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him in his \u2026 reputation shall have remedy by due course of law."

The Willingham lawsuit was filed in part under a similar legal claim.

It also asks that Baird open what is called a court of inquiry in the case to determine whether probable cause exists 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.

"We are not looking or asking for anything other than a fair and impartial review of the facts and the law in this case," said San Antonio lawyer Gerald Goldstein, who represents Willingham's relatives along with former Texas Gov. Mark White and Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

Baird said he would hold an evidentiary hearing on the case next month if, after reviewing the filing, he deems the case worthy.

Willingham was convicted of murder in 1992 in the deaths of his children —1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron and 2-year-old Amber — who died of smoke inhalation after a fire at the family's house in Corsicana, about 55 miles northeast of Waco. He maintained his innocence until his 2004 execution.

Willingham's lawyers said they first presented claims that he was convicted on faulty scientific arson theories to the office of Gov. Rick Perry in the days before his execution.

Since 2006, they have pursued their case with the Forensic Science Commission, whose hired expert last year issued a report identifying numerous scientific shortcomings in the Willingham fire investigation.

At a meeting this month, members of the commission wrestled with the scope of their investigation.

Bradley had supported a draft report that said investigators of the Corsicana fire could not be held accountable for relying on arson indicators now known to be unreliable or misleading because they were following the best available practices of the time.

But some of the commission's scientists said they wanted to look at other issues, including whether the state fire marshal's office, which investigates fires statewide, has a duty to reopen cases once it realizes that earlier investigative practices have been debunked by scientific advancements.

The commission has agreed to convene a panel of fire experts at a November meeting.

The Willingham family's 62-page suit was filed with hundreds of pages of exhibits and indicates that copies have been delivered to 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.

It is unclear whether officials in those offices would be made to participate in the inquiry or what a hearing in Baird's court on the Willingham case would entail.

Perry has called Willingham a "monster" and said he believes he is guilty; the fire marshal's office has stood by its original determination that Willingham's house was torched intentionally. A Perry spokeswoman on Friday noted in a statement that Willingham's conviction had been upheld by courts nine times.

Goldstein declined to say whether he planned to seek to subpoena any officials if Baird agrees to hold a hearing.

The February 2009 hearing on the Cole case lasted two days and included testimony from Michele Mallin, the woman whom Cole was convicted of raping, and Jerry Johnson, a prison inmate serving a life term who said he was the one who raped Mallin and was implicated in a later DNA test.

Lawyers for the Innocence Project of Texas questioned the witnesses. No one cross-examined them.

In the Willingham case, Corsicana officials have said they stand by their investigation and conclusions and say they continue to believe he was guilty. Willingham's trial defense lawyer also has said he believes his former client was guilty.

If Baird holds a hearing in October, it would come before the Texas gubernatorial election pitting Perry, a Republican, against Democratic challenger Bill White, a former Houston mayor. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Willingham was executed during Perry's tenure, and Perry was accused of playing politics with the case last year when he replaced three members of the nine-member Commission on Forensic Science, including the chairman, Austin defense lawyer Sam Bassett.

The members, whose terms had expired, were replaced just days before the commission had been scheduled to hear the findings of the expert they had hired to evaluate the case. That presentation was postponed indefinitely.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Host a Viewing Party and Watch World Premiere of Documentary about Todd Willingham "Death by Fire" Oct 19

Watch the documentary "Death by Fire" on air and online beginning Tuesday, October 19th at 9 pm on PBS (check local listings) and at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/death-by-fire. You can also hold a viewing party with your friends to watch together. Contact Texas Moratorium Network for some ideas on organizing a viewing party (512-961-6389).

Check local listings to see what time "Death by Fire" airs on Frontline in your city on October 19 to watch the new documentary about the Todd Willingham case. You can watch in the comfort of your own home. 

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sLr67kctoQ




You could invite friends over to watch the documentary with you. If you are in high school or college, you could gather your friends, watch "Death by Fire" together and then discuss what you think about the case and about the death penalty.

Did Texas execute an innocent man? Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it’s the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham—convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children—that’s now at the center of the national debate. With unique access to those closest to the case, FRONTLINE examines the Willingham conviction in light of new science that raises doubts about whether the fire at the center of the case was really arson at all. The film meticulously examines the evidence used to convict Willingham, provides an in-depth portrait of those most impacted by the case, and explores the explosive implications of the execution of a possibly innocent man.

After you watch the full documentary on October 19, consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about what you think about the Willingham case and how you think governments should respond to the news that an innocent person was in all likelihood executed. Should the death penalty be repealed? Should there be a moratorium on executions?

What else can you do?

1) Discuss the issue with your friends and family.

2) Write the Governor of Texas: 
http://camerontoddwillingham.com/?page_id=26



3) Find out who represents you as Texas state senator and state representative. Contact your state legislators and urge them to support a moratorium on executions and a death penalty study commission.

4) Sign a petition: 
http://camerontoddwillingham.com/?page_id=6

5) Attend the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol in Austin on October 30, 2010.
http://marchforabolition.org/



6) Join the Facebook group Todd Willingham – Innocent and Executed: Shout it from the Rooftops.

7) You can upload a video to our YouTube group of you or a group of your friends “shouting” that Todd Willingham was innocent. You can also upload a video of you alone in front of your computer on a webcam making a statement that Todd was innocent. You don’t have to actually “shout” it, but you can.

Shout this name from the rooftops, Todd Willingham. He was innocent and Texas killed him. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2006, wrote that, in the modern judicial system there has not been “a single case–not one–in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.” 


More information at http://camerontoddwillingham.com

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Junk Science of Dog Scent Lineups Gets Murder Conviction Thrown Out - Man to be Freed

The more you read about this case the angrier you will get that people have been sitting in prison because of a bunch of yahoo East Texas prosecutors. Those prosecutors should be held accountable. We haven't heard about such nonsense science being used to wrongfully convict someone since some ignorant fire investigators and prosecutors used junk science to convict Todd Willingham.


From the Austin American-Statesman:



The state's highest criminal court Wednesday threw out the murder conviction of an East Texas man, ruling that results from controversial dog "scent lineups" are not reliable enough to stand on their own in court.
The decision means that Richard Winfrey Sr. , 56, now serving a 75-year sentence in state prison, is acquitted and will go free.
No physical evidence tied Winfrey to the brutal 2004 murder of a neighbor in Coldspring, about 20 miles east of Huntsville. But three bloodhounds owned and trained by Keith Pikett , a now-retired Fort Bend County deputy sheriff, indicated that they smelled Winfrey's scent on a gauze pad that had been wiped on the victim's clothes and stored in a plastic bag for three years.
A San Jacinto County jury convicted Winfrey of murder based almost entirely on the lineup results, according to Wednesday's decision. On appeal, Winfrey's lawyers claimed the scent lineups were unreliable and quoted scientists and dog experts who found Pikett's methods to be unethical, unprofessional and biased in favor of law enforcement.
Wednesday's decision means prosecutors can continue to introduce scent lineups at trial, but only if the conclusions are supported by other, corroborating evidence.
The Court of Criminal Appeals declined to delve into the bigger question of whether dog scent lineups should be admissible in court at all. Because Winfrey's lawyer failed to object to the lineup at trial, the issue was not eligible for review by the appeals courts, a concurring opinion by four judges noted.
Instead, the court ruled 8-0 that prosecutors had failed to present any credible evidence, beyond the dogs' identification, tying Winfrey to the crime.
"I am so glad to know that they saw that poppycock stuff," said Shirley Baccus-Lobel , Winfrey's appeals lawyer. She said the Winfrey family was "deliriously happy" to hear the news.
On their own, scent lineups do not provide enough evidence to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, said the opinion by Judge Barbara Hervey . Scent is easily transferred and is "not proof positive that (Winfrey) came in contact with the victim," she wrote.
Several other justices, during oral arguments in April, also noted that prosecutors could not prove that Winfrey's scent, even if present on the victim's clothing, was transferred during the crime.
"We acknowledge the invariable truth espoused by (U.S. Supreme Court) Justice (David) Souter that 'the infallible dog, however, is a creature of legal fiction,'\u2009" Hervey wrote. "We conclude that scent-discrimination lineups, when used alone or as primary evidence, are legally insufficient to support a conviction."
The unanimous opinion overturned a lower court that affirmed Winfrey's conviction in the murder of Murray Burr, who was badly beaten and stabbed 28 times in his home. No witnesses saw Winfrey at Burr's house. He did not match DNA, fingerprints, a bloody footprint or any of the 73 hairs taken from the crime scene. None of Burr's possessions were found with Winfrey, Hervey noted.
Bill Burnett , the San Jacinto County district attorney who argued that Winfrey's conviction should be upheld, died in June, about six weeks after oral
arguments. His office declined to comment on the case.
Police also charged two of Winfrey's children with Burr's murder — Megan, who was 16 at the time, and Richard Jr., who was 17.
Megan was found guilty of capital murder, but her brother — after hiring a new lawyer who aggressively challenged the science and methodology behind Pikett's lineups — was acquitted by jurors who deliberated only 13 minutes.
Megan's lawyer, Scott Pawgan , has already begun drafting a supplemental brief in the 9th Court of Appeals based on Wednesday's opinion. "The evidence in Megan's case is almost identical to her father's," Pawgan said.
Megan's trial lawyer also failed to object to Pikett's lineup testimony, but Baccus-Lobel predicted that it is only a matter of time before the right case arrives that will allow the Court of Criminal Appeals to weigh the admissibility of scent lineups.
From 1993 to 2009, Pikett and his dogs conducted hundreds of scent lineups for about 20 Texas counties, the Texas Rangers, the state attorney general's office and federal agencies, court documents show. Pikett trained a half-dozen of his bloodhounds — sporting names such as Columbo, Quincy, James Bond and Clue — to conduct scent lineups using methods he created or learned from dog training seminars.
He claimed his dogs were nearly infallible in tying suspects to crime scenes.
However, at least four lawsuits are pending that allege Pikett's dogs erred, including a case involving two men who were charged with a triple murder in Houston before the killer confessed.
In Winfrey's case, Pikett placed six unsterilized coffee cans about 10 steps apart, outdoors and on the ground. One can held a gauze pad that had been wiped on Winfrey's skin. The others were filled with scent pads, taken from several hundred Pikett carries with him, that matched Winfrey's race and gender.
Pikett had a bloodhound smell a scent pad from clothes Burr was wearing when he was killed, and then walked a leashed dog by the cans until it turned or barked, alerting him to a matching smell.
Forensic scientists and professional dog handlers have stepped up their criticism of Pikett's methods, which they say lack scientific understanding and safeguards. For example, the cans are not cleaned between use, and ungloved handlers typically placed the gauze pads inside, mingling scents.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Keith Hampton Endorsed by Dallas Morning News Editorial Board

The Dallas Morning News has endorsed Keith Hampton in his campaign to become a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The CCA's presiding judge is Sharon Keller, who has been issued a "Public Warning" for judicial misconduct. Visit Hampton's website at: http://www.hamptonforjudge.com.

From the DMN:

Three seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals are up for election this year. The Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest criminal court in the state, hearing criminal appeals – including death penalty appeals. Judges serve six-year terms. We are recommending in the only race being contested by both major parties.
Elections 2010
Early voting: Oct. 18-29
Election Day: Nov. 2
For more information: Call the Dallas County elections office at 214-637-7937; visit dalcoelections.org; call the Texas secretary of state's office at 1-800-252-8683; or visitsos.state.tx.us/elections.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has developed a reputation as a court that turns its back on verdicts that need a second or third look.
It's easy to see why. Seven of the nine judges have backgrounds as prosecutors, and the presiding judge once campaigned as "pro-prosecutor." Court-watchers recite a list of marquee cases of failed justice. The court's tilt is a concern, considering that Texas leads the nation in executions and has far more DNA-proven miscarriages of justice than any other state.
The Nov. 2 election for Place 6 on the court is an opportunity for a rebalancing. Austin defense attorney Keith Hampton, running against veteran Judge Michael Keasler, has the legal credentials and a perspective now missing on the court: If elected, he would be the only member to have involvement in a capital murder case from indictment all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hampton, 49, a Democrat, has pushed for important legal reforms in Austin as legislative director for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. One effort led to a law giving juries the option of life without parole for murderers. An unsuccessful effort last year would have improved police photo lineups – an overdue reform in light of widespread cases of documented witness misidentification.
If elected, Hampton says, the robe goes on, the "advocacy stops" and the job becomes restrained application of legal precedent.
Likewise, Keasler says judges are bound to precedent, even when they don't like the result. Keasler says he prosecuted 432 jury trials for the Dallas County District Attorney's office before he was elected to a local judgeship in 1980. And he describes himself as on the conservative end of the appeals court.
Keasler concedes that the court has a poor reputation, but he says the quality of its work has improved drastically in recent years, bringing it into "the mainstream" nationally.
Still, in some death penalty cases, the court has appeared more concerned with procedure than the possibility of new information that could affect the outcome. A high-profile example involved murder accomplice Kenneth Foster, who raised claims of new information in 2007 that the court refused to address. (Gov. Rick Perry commuted the death sentence to life based on concerns that Foster was tried jointly with the triggerman).
Keasler has written and taught extensively and has been active in judicial organizations nationwide. He should be respected for his contributions, but this court would benefit now with Hampton sitting in his seat.
Frisco attorney Robert Ravee Virasin, 38, a Libertarian, also is on the ballot.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Complete Transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 Trial

Complete transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 trial, divided into five documents on Scribd.com.

Part 1 Contains beginning of proceedings, opening statements and first day of witness tesimony and cross examination. (270 pages)

Part 2 Contains second day of witness tesimony and cross examination. (146 pages)

Part 3 Contains opening and closing arguments, verdict and jury polling. (53 pages)

Part 4 Contains beginning of punishment phase. (209 pages)

Part 5 Contains defense arguments, the state’s arguments, verdict and formal sentencing. (30 pages)

Complete Transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 Trial (Part 1 of 5)

Complete Transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 Trial (Part 2 of 5)

Complete Transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 Trial (Part 3 of 5)

Complete Transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 Trial (Part 4 of 5)

Complete Transcripts from Cameron Todd Willingham’s 1992 Trial (Part 5 of 5)

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Monday, Sept 20: Hearing on Sharon Keller's Request to Dismiss Public Reprimand

From the Austin American-Statesman:
The special court of review on Monday will hear Judge Sharon Keller’s request to summarily dismiss a public reprimand from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The hearing on Keller’s motion to dismiss will be at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Texas Supreme Court in downtown Austin. Each side will have up to 45 minutes to argue.
The commission, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct, ruled in July that Keller violated Court of Criminal Appeals procedures when she closed the court clerk’s office at 5 p.m., allowing rapist-murderer Michael Richard to be executed later that night without his final appeal being heard in court.
Keller appealed the rebuke, and the three-judge court of review was created by a random drawing of state appeals court justices to hear her arguments.
Keller’s motion to dismiss asks the special court to void the reprimand and drop all charges, arguing that the commission exceeded its authority, violated the judge’s due process rights and rebuked Keller for violating a court rule that was nothing more than an unwritten protocol.
From the Courier of Montgomery County:
A Conroe appellate judge will sit on a special court of review to hear Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Sharon Keller’s motion to overturn a reprimand for her handling of an execution-day appeal.

Justice Charles Kreger, of the 9th state Court of Appeals, was selected, along with 2nd state Court of Appeals Justice Terrie Livingston and 1st state Court of Appeals Justice Elsa Alcala, to hear Keller’s motion to dismiss a public warning the State Commission on Judicial Conduct gave her July 16.

Livingston will serve as chief justice for the special court of review, according to a letter Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson sent to the three justices Aug. 18. None of the three will receive additional compensation, as mandated under the Texas Government Code.

The hearing is Monday, said Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information for the Texas Supreme Court, where the hearing will be held.


“If the special court does not grant (Keller’s motion to dismiss),” McCarthy said, “they will rehear the case in its entirety.”

Keller, presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, sought an overturning of her warning by the state Supreme Court, which denied her request Aug. 16.

Jefferson selected Kreger, Livingston and Alcala “by lot,” under Texas Government Code Section 33.034.

“The chief justice literally pulled their names out of a hat,” McCarthy said.

Kreger did not return calls for comment, and Houston attorney Charles Babcock, who is representing Keller, could not be reached.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Keller for her handling of the last-minute appeals of Death Row inmate Michael Wayne Richard, who was scheduled to die in September 2007 for the 1986 rape and murder of a Harris County nurse at her home.

The day Richard was scheduled to die, his attorneys, who were trying to file a stay-of-execution appeal, told Keller they were having computer problems that were preventing them from delivering their appeal.

She responded, “We close at 5,” and closed the court.

Richard was executed later that evening by lethal injection.

Earlier that same day, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a Kentucky case claiming lethal injection cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling put a hold on executions for months across the nation, making Richard’s execution the last for sometime.

Keller’s reprimand was one of the least severe sanctions she could receive from the State Commission on Judicial Commission, which found her actions showed “willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties” and that she had cast “public discredit on the judiciary.”

Keller is asking for a removal of the public warning from her record and allegations of judicial misconduct to be dismissed.

Within 60 days after the hearing, according to the Texas Government Code, the special court of review “shall issue a decision as to the proper disposition of the appeal.”

The court’s decision is not appealable, according to the Texas Government Code.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Video Preview of Upcoming PBS Frontline Documentary on Todd Willingham Case






Death by Fire
On air and online October 19, 2010 at 9:00pm (check local listings)



Click here to watch video preview on Frontline site.

Did Texas execute an innocent man? Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it's the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham—convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children—that's now at the center of the national debate. With unique access to those closest to the case, FRONTLINE examines the Willingham conviction in light of new science that raises doubts about whether the fire at the center of the case was really arson at all. The film meticulously examines the evidence used to convict Willingham, provides an in-depth portrait of those most impacted by the case, and explores the explosive implications of the execution of a possibly innocent man.

11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty
October 30, 2010 at 2 PM
Texas State Capitol
Austin Texas

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Video of Todd Willingham's Family Testifying to Texas Forensic Science Commission

The Texas Forensic Science Commission met in Dallas on Sept 17, 2010. Todd Willingham’s stepmother, Eugenia, and two of his cousins, Patricia Willingham Cox and Judy Willingham Cavner, testified to the packed meeting. Watch the video on YouTube.




Video by Texas Moratorium Network




October 30, 2010 at 2 PM
Texas State Capitol
Austin Texas

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Videos of News Coverage of Texas Forensic Science Commission Meeting on Todd Willingham

Texas Moratorium Network attended the meeting of the Texas Forensic Science Commission on Sept 17, 2010 in Dallas. Below are some media coverage on Dallas TV stations. The yellow and blue signs on the walls were brought to the meeting by TMN.

Video From MyFox Dallas Fort Worth (Contains comments by Rick Perry):




Video from NBC Dallas:





Video from WFAA (ABC) Dallas:




October 30, 2010 at 2 PM
Texas State Capitol
Austin Texas

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Photos of Todd Willingham's Family at Texas Forensic Science Commission meeting in Dallas Sept 17, 2010

This is Todd Willingham’s family who continue to fight tenaciously for justice for Todd. Before his execution, Todd had told his parents, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.” In this picture are Todd’s family members at the Texas Forensic Science Commission in Dallas on Sept 17. They won’t ever give up, and we won’t give up standing beside them.

Todd Willingham's Family at Texas Forensic Science Commission

Todd Willingham's Family joined by Jamie Bush and Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network
 and Laura Lamb of CEDP-Denton

October 30, 2010 at 2 PM
Texas State Capitol
Austin Texas





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Texas Forensic Science Commission Rebelled Friday Against its Chair John Bradley

The Texas Forensic Science Commission rebelled Friday against its head commissioner, refusing to accept his draft report clearing arson investigators of misconduct or negligence in a 1991 fatal fire where flawed science was used to determine the blaze was intentionally set.


RON HEFLIN/Special Contributor
Texas Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley, seated next to counsel Barbara Deane, pushed members to end their investigation by voting that misconduct did not occur in the 1991 arson case of Cameron Todd Willingham.
Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for killing his three children by setting that blaze. Texas may have executed an innocent man on Gov. Rick Perry's watch if the fire was accidental.
"There's a lot of work to be done still," Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani, a member of the commission, said after the meeting. "That's why the commission didn't approve the draft."
The commission instead plans to question arson experts at a future meeting about investigation standards at the time of the fire and will look into whether the investigators knew or should have known the science that led them to assume the fire was caused by arson was flawed.
That puts the commission's plans right back where they were nearly a year ago, just before Perry suddenly replaced the chairman and two members of the commission.
Perry's October 2009 dismissals came two days before commissioners were to hear from Baltimore-based Craig Beyler, a nationally recognized fire expert hired by the panel. Beyler has called the fire investigation into the Willingham case slipshod, saying the conclusion that the fire was caused by arson was based on wives' tales about how fire behaves.
Perry's replacements were seen by some as a political maneuver intended to change the outcome of the commission's decision. Perry replaced Austin defense attorney Sam Bassett with conservative Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley as head of the commission.
Perry, however, said the change was a typical use of his power for appointments.
When asked to respond to the commission's Friday decision to reject the draft report and keep reviewing circumstances around the arson ruling, Perry's office only pointed out that Willingham was convicted by a jury and that decision was upheld by state and federal courts.
"We expect that the commission will appropriately complete their review of this case," the statement said.
Had the commission accepted the draft report as Bradley wanted, it would have ended the commission's inquiry into the Willingham case.
Bassett, the replaced chairman, said in a prepared statement that "science prevailed" when the commission rejected the draft.
"It is heartening to see the scientists on the commission are taking this investigation seriously and requiring that more be done," he said.
Bassett said that there is "little doubt" some testimony "was based upon flawed science and outdated principles. While some don't seem to care about this anomaly and how it might affect hundreds of arson convictions, it is a relief that the majority of the commission does care."
At a meeting set for Nov. 19, the commission is now expected to hear from experts, including Beyler, who concluded that no reasonable investigator could determine that the Corsicana house fire was intentionally set.
Read the rest of the article here.


October 30, 2010 at 2 PM
Texas State Capitol
Austin Texas

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Video Explaining Catholic Church’s Teaching Regarding the Death Penalty

This 10 minute video, with reflection questions, provides an explanation of the Catholic Church's teaching regarding the death penalty, In addition to the principles, it discusses their application in the United States today. It includes comments by Bill Pelke, president of the Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing. Bill and members of the JOH will be attending the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin on October 30 at the Texas Capitol. Journey of Hope will be conducting a speaking tour in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin in the two weeks leading up to the annual march in Austin.

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