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Texas Executes an Innocent Man

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. Greg

    Greg Full Member

    @CDW Oh I see. Then maybe an expert on scientific practices to debate the validity of the current state of arson forensics? Well, too late now...

    Actually it appears that arson forensics improved between his conviction date and his execution date. That should have been good enough for a hearing to determine if he deserved a new trial. I guess the system didn't allow that, showing that the system is still fubared.
     
  2. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    It's not that the system didn't allow it to happen. The reports were sent to the clemency board, or whoever is supposed to review them, and they didn't even read that damn things.
     
  3. Greg

    Greg Full Member

    Yeah, that's a pretty badly broken system if there's no feedback loop. With no feedback there's no way to correct an injustice, probably an indication that nobody important cares.
     
  4. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

  5. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    More activity:

    The Texas Forensic Science Commission was supposed to review this case Friday. Governor Perry, who believes Willingham was guilty, just fired the Commission chair and two members. They were supposed to review Craig Beyler's report Friday, but now that meeting has been put on hold.

    Why is the state of Texas so unwilling to face the possibility that they might have executed an innocent man?
     
  6. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    You and I know the answer.
     
  7. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

  8. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    Keep us posted. :)
     
  9. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

  10. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Agreed 100%. I am not wishing for anything but the truth.
     
  11. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    But what can they do about it if they did kill an innocent man? Unless they want to give money to his family, but then there would be a fight over who gets what.
     
  12. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    What can they do other than make monetary compensation? We can presume at this point in time that if errors were found, they will make the best effort at correcting them.

    SM
     
  13. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    I've been wondering about something for the last little while. I have never done a murder trial, which is almost a specialization by itself, and I also don't do superior court criminal trials, so I don't know how the system works.

    But the standard of proof is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and I've been wondering how the prosecution can prove its case against an innocent accused, especially for complex trials where the government has to prove a ton of evidence against the opposing side. I keep hearing of jurors discriminating against African-Americans or whatever, but that seems to easy an explanation, because that was the case with the Donald Marshall wrongful convictio in Canada.

    So how can people be wrongfully convicted of murder??? That's what I don't understand.
     
  14. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    In this case, it hinged on what is now known to be bad science. The (now deceased) arson investigator relied on stuff he had been taught by other arson investigators that was thought to be true, but has recently been shown to be false. Crazed glass, as one example, doesn't indicate high heat; it indicates hot glass got hit with cold water. But crazed glass for many years was thought to mean higher temps that usually indicated accelerants.
     
  15. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    I haven't read the details of this case yet, but let's consider how it goes - the experts used bad science to say that the fire was started deliberately, and the prosecution says the accused started it. But my problem is that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the father was the arsonist, so, even if there was an arson, how did the prosecution prove the next step? Circumstantial evidence may not be enough - Hodge's Law states that circumstantial evidence can be used to convict if and only if they prove his guilt beyon a reasonable doubt, and that is very hard to do.

    So how did the prosecution prove its case?

    Just as importantly, is bad science the reason for most wrongful convictions?
     
  16. Kluge

    Kluge Observing your world for over 50 years

    CBS TV's 60 Minutes did a piece on eyewitness testimony that said, as I recall, most wrongful convictions are a result of incorrect eyewitness testimony.
    The piece cited many errors in witness interview techniques that hint to the potential witness which statements will quickly settle the questions and later the unintended 'reward' for repeating earlier indications, both events leading to false testimony when the initial identification is in error.
    I frequently remember this article when watching TV shows like CSI.

    On the reasonable doubt issue, don't you wonder how that standard is ever reached by people who believe in astrology, UFO's, and Intelligent Design? I feel like it's worse for me, since I have a conscience and a CT mindset I wouldn't be very happy on a jury where someone's freedom was at stake.
     
  17. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    Now that you mention it ...

    I think fanatical skeptcs can be just as bad - Carl Sagan sued Apple twice for referring to him as a butthead astronomer, and he lost both times, so neither side of the paranormal debate can claim perfection.

    Eyewitness testimony, if incorrect, can lead to wrongful conviction, so that's one explanation. Thanks. :)
     
  18. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Well, I am happy that investigation did happen and while they DID find flaws, they didn't find misconduct.

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-arsoncase_24tex.ART.State.Edition2.4d1f708.html
     
  19. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    Flawed science still helped execute a probably innocent man. IF they were to run that trial today without the arson "evidence," there's no way he would be convicted. And as Scheck points out, he didn't ask about misconduct during the investigation. "Scheck said, the group wants to know whether the fire marshal's office committed misconduct by not notifying prosecutors that Willingham had been convicted based on flawed investigative standards."
     
  20. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Good point, Bob. I guess I am in denial. Didn't want that result. :(
     

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