Shortly after the court of inquiry concluded, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin granted a Navarro County District Attorney’s Office (which prosecuted Willingham) request to temporarily stay all proceedings. The same office had earlier asked Judge Baird to recuse himself from the case. Baird declined to step aside.
The Court of Appeals set a deadline of Friday, October 22 for all parties to respond to the stay.
Judge Charles Baird has begun a court of inquiry to determine if Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed. Willingham was executed in 2004 following a conviction on charges that he intentionally set a fire that killed his three children.
Here’s the petition from Willingham’s family (PDF).
We’re in the courtroom in Austin and will have periodic updates here.
- Update 1:43pm – Gerald Goldstein, attorney for the Willingham family, is casting doubt on the credibility of the jailhouse informant who testified Willingham confessed to the crime while awaiting trial. That informant now says and is willing to testify that he lied, Goldstein says.
Update 1:50pm – Attorney Barry Scheck says his team will show that the science used to convict Willingham was discredited 10 years prior to the trial.
Update 1:55pm – John Lentini, whom Scheck calls the leading fire expert in the country, is now on the witness stand.
Update 1:56pm – The Innocence Project is live streaming the court of inquiry.
Update 2:19pm – Lentini goes over images of the burned out Willingham home and says this of the conclusions reached by fire investigators: “They are completely without merit, completely unreliable.”
Update 2:20pm – Lentini says science that convicted Willingham is as faulty now as it was back in 1991 when the fire occurred.
Update 2:48pm – Not a single one of the 20 indicators claimed by investigators as arson in the Willingham fire was actually arson, Lentini says.
Update 2:59pm – Fire investigator Manuel Vasquez showed a “predisposition” to determine most fires were arson.
Update 3:26pm – Judge Baird asks Lentini if he’s aware of any experts anywhere in the world who disagree with his conclusion that the fire was not arson. “One guy,” was Lentini’s answer.
Update 3:35pm – We’re on a bit of a break.
Update 3:46pm – We’re back. Goldstein is now focusing on Johnny Webb, the jailhouse informant who testified Willingham confessed to setting the fire.
Update 3:58pm – Goldstein pointing to the problems with jailhouse informants like Webb who may seek “promised ‘benefits’” in exchange for testimony. Goldstein calls Webb’s testimony “purchased.”
Update 4:14pm – Dr. Gerald Hurst is now on the stand.
Update 4:35pm – Not a single item of evidence that would even suggest the Willingham fire was arson, Hurst concludes.
We’re done and Willingham’s attorneys have concluded their case. Baird will rule at a later time.
We’ll keep you posted.