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Arson Review Report

Arson Review Report

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Published by: ProgressTX on Jun 25, 2012
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 Arson Review Committee
 A Peer Review Panel Commissioned by the Innocence Project
 Douglas J. Carpenter, P.E.Combustion Science & Engineering, Inc.8940 Old Annapolis Rd. Ste LColumbia, MD 21045www.csefire.com Daniel L. Churchward Kodiak Fire & Safety6409 Constitution Dr.Ft Wayne, IN 46804www.kodiakconsulting.com John J. Lentini, Chairman Applied Technical Services1190 Atlanta Industrial Dr. Marietta, GA 30066 www.atslab.com Michael A. McKenzie, Esq.Cozen O’Connor SunTrust Tower, Ste 2200303 Peachtree St. NE  Atlanta, GA 30308www.cozen.com David M. Smith Associated Fire Consultants4257 West Ina Rd Suite 101Tucson, AZ 85741www.assocfire.com
 ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 Report on the Peer Review of the Expert Testimonyin the Cases of 
State of Texas v. Cameron Todd Willingham and State of Texas v. Ernest Ray Willis
 
Report of the Innocence Project Arson Review Committee2Innocence Project12Arson Review Committee (ARC) Report345TABLE OF CONTENTS67Executive Summary 389Introduction 31011Methodology 41213Review of Trial Testimony1415State of Texas v. Cameron Todd Willingham 51617Trial Testimony of Manuel Vasquez 51819Trial Testimony of Douglas Fogg 152021Report of the Texas State Fire Marshal 172223State of Texas v. Ernest Ray Willis 202425Trial Testimony of Edward Cheever 202627Trial Testimony of John Dailey 292829Report of the Texas State Fire Marshal 353031Report of John Dailey 353233The State of the Art in Fire Investigation Prior to 1992 383435The State of the Art in Fire Investigation Since 1992 403637Recommendations 403839The Authors 434041Signature Pages
 
45
 
4243
 
Report of the Innocence Project Arson Review Committee3
Executive Summary
 12Neither the fire that killed the three Willingham children nor the fire that killed Elizabeth Grace3Belue and Gail Joe Allison were incendiary fires. The artifacts examined and relied upon by the4fire investigators in both cases are the kind of artifacts routinely created by accidental fires that5progress beyond flashover.67The State’s expert witnesses in both cases relied on interpretations of “indicators” that they were8taught constituted evidence of arson. While we have no doubt that these witnesses believed what9they were saying, each and every one of the indicators relied upon have since been scientifically10proven to be invalid.1112To the extent that there are still investigators in Texas and elsewhere, who interpret low burning,13irregular fire patterns and collapsed furniture springs as indicators of incendiary fires, there will14continue to be serious miscarriages of justice.1516Continuous (and in some cases, remedial) training and professional development of fire17investigators is required. Additionally, participants in the justice system need to become better18educated, and more skeptical of opinion testimony for which there is no scientific support, and19need to ensure that defendants in arson cases are afforded the opportunity to retain independent20experts to evaluate charges that a fire was incendiary.2122In the cases of individuals already convicted using what is now known to be bad science (or no23science), the Courts should treat the “new” knowledge as “newly discovered evidence.” It was24resistance to this concept that allowed the State to execute Mr. Willingham, even though it was25known that the evidence used to convict him was invalid.262728
Introduction
2930The undersigned fire investigators have been requested by the Innocence Project to examine the31outcomes of two Texas arson convictions, those of Cameron Todd Willingham and Ernest Ray32Willis.
1
The Willis fire occurred in Iraan, Texas, on June 11, 1986, and the Willingham fire33occurred in Corsicana, Texas on December 23, 1991. Both cases reached their ultimate34conclusion in 2004. On February 17, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by lethal35injection. On October 6, Mr. Willis was freed from the same facility where Mr. Willingham was36executed.3738Fire is governed by the laws of physics. In order to reach valid determinations, therefore, the39investigation of fires must follow the Scientific Method as all other physical science40investigations do. After a review of the scientific basis for the determination of arson, the41prosecutors in the Willis case acknowledged that his conviction was based on faulty science and42unreliable indicators of arson. Even though, for all practical purposes, the interpretations of the43physical evidence as testified to in the Willis trial were the same in the Willingham trial and after44
1
None of the authors have received any compensation for this
pro bon
o review, nor will any compensation beaccepted.

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