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Death Penalty

Expert Hits Arson Finding in Case that Led to Defendant’s Execution

Posted Aug 25, 2009 6:47 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A nationally known expert has concluded that a fire was not arson, a finding that contradicted trial testimony that led to the conviction and execution of a Texas man.

The expert, Craig Beyler, reviewed the case of Cameron Todd Willingham for the Texas Forensic Science Commission, created to investigate allegations of forensic mistakes, the Chicago Tribune reports. The newspaper obtained a copy of his report.

Willingham was convicted of murder for the deaths of his three children who perished in the fire. Beyler is one of nine top fire scientists who have reviewed the case and found that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore, the story says.

Beyler wrote that the state fire marshal investigating the case "seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires and how fire injuries are created.”

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