The inquiry into the Willingham case will be held in his courtroom on Oct. 6-7, but Judge Baird said that it could be extended if necessary. Supporters of Cameron Todd Willingham hailed the Austin district judge’s decision last Monday to open a two-day court of inquiry next month. He will determine whether Willingham was wrongfully convicted and executed in the deaths of his three daughters, who perished in a Corsicana house fire in 1991.
Former Gov. Mark White, a member of the legal team that petitioned for the rare legal proceeding, said that he believes that there is “overwhelming scientific evidence” to support fire experts’ findings that the arson investigation that led to Willingham’s conviction was outdated and unreliable.
Baird’s decision brought a sharp response from Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley whom Texas Governor Perry appointed as chairman in a membership shakeup last year. Bradley had hoped to finish the commission’s inquiry at the panel’s last meeting in Dallas but was overruled by other members who pushed to continue the Willingham case.
Baird, judge of the 299th District Court in Travis County, said that the inquiry could lead to Willingham’s posthumous exoneration if the findings warrant so. He said that he has no preconceived view on Willingham’s guilt or innocence but felt that questions raised in the case justify 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 could make a ruling within two weeks after the review is concluded. Read more here.