Le donazioni alla Comunità di Sant'Egidio sono fiscalmente deducibili
secondo la normativa vigente
Anche quest'anno è possibile destinare il 5x1000 alla Comunità di Sant'Egidio
Scrivi il numero 80191770587 nella dichiarazione dei redditi

Andrea Riccardi: sul web

Andrea Riccardi: sui social network

Andrea Riccardi: la rassegna stampa

change language
sei dentro: no pena di morte - news newslettercontattilink

Sostieni la Comunità

19 Ottobre 2010 | STATI UNITI


Caso Willingham: processo alla pena di morte in Texas

versione stampabile

The New York Times

Family’s Effort to Clear Name Frames Debate on Executions


AUSTIN, Tex. — It was an unusual hearing. The subject at the center of it all, Cameron Todd Willingham, was not present. After being convicted of murdering his three children in a 1991 house fire, he was executed in 2004.

Members of Mr. Willingham’s family, working with lawyers who oppose the death penalty, had asked for the rare and controversial hearing, held here on Thursday, to investigate whether Mr. Willingham was wrongfully convicted. They argue that the proceeding, known as a court of inquiry, could restore Mr. Willingham’s reputation, a right guaranteed under Texas law, even to the dead.

But they also say that the hearing is more than symbolic — it could cast in a new light the Lone Star State’s record on executions. And more broadly, they argue, it is a cautionary tale about the power of flawed science to sway a courtroom, and a glaring injustice that could affect debates over the fairness of the death penalty.

That debate has been framed, in part, by a 2006 opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court, in which he said that the dissent in a case had not cited “a single case — not one — in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit.”

Many who oppose the death penalty have taken Justice Scalia’s statement as a challenge, and argue that the Willingham case is their proof.

To those favoring the death penalty, Mr. Willingham is guilty, and the efforts to posthumously exonerate him are an abolitionist farce.

Critics of the hearing have said the proceeding is illegal, and have tried to derail it. The district attorney of Navarro County, R. Lowell Thompson, whose office originally convicted Mr. Willingham, filed a motion last week demanding that Judge Charlie Baird recuse himself, arguing a judge cannot appoint himself to lead a court of inquiry, and must instead refer the matter to a higher court for an appointment. At the beginning of the hearing on Thursday, Judge Baird ruled that he would allow the hearing to go forward.

At the end of the day, however, as testimony was closing down, the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin issued a stay at Mr. Thompson’s request, ordering Judge Baird not to hold further proceedings or to issue rulings until next Friday, and asked the Willingham team to explain why the case should be allowed to go forward.

The focus of lawyers for Mr. Willingham’s family was on evidence presented by fire marshals at Mr. Willingham’s original trial — evidence that nine experts have said included “many critical errors,” as one report put it. Several of the experts were working at the request of the Innocence Project, an organization that seeks the acquittal of wrongfully convicted people.

The expert who wrote that critical report, Gerald Hurst, argued that evidence suggested the fire was accidental, not arson. His report was sent to Gov. Rick Perry shortly before the execution, but Mr. Perry declined to halt or delay the procedure.

The evidence presented at trial that Mr. Willingham committed arson “amounts to junk science,” Gerald H. Goldstein, a San Antonio lawyer arguing on behalf of the Willingham family, said in the courtroom.

Judge Baird asked Dr. Hurst at the hearing whether his review of the case could rule out arson “within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.”

Dr. Hurst demurred. “I never had a case where I could exclude arson,” he said. “It’s not possible to do that.”

The judge then asked if “there’s nothing in the evidence you’ve seen here that suggests arson.”

“That’s correct,” Dr. Hurst said.

John Lentini, a fire expert who has studied flawed arson investigations, hammered at the evidence and analysis from fire marshals at the Willingham trial.

Under questioning by Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project, Mr. Lentini ridiculed critical testimony at the trial that 20 factors, including burn patterns on the floor and cracks in the windows, proved that Mr. Willingham spread accelerants to fuel the fire.

No such chemicals were found in the house, Mr. Lentini said. Much of the analysis of Manuel Vasquez, the state fire marshal in the Willingham trial, “didn’t even meet the standards of 1991,” a time that Mr. Lentini characterized as having “a wretched state of the art.”

The current fire marshal, Paul Maldonado, stands by the work of the original marshals in the Willingham case, which Mr. Lentini said he found mystifying.

Mr. Lentini said that the flaws in the science required the state to go back and take a new look at other arson convictions. “I can understand why the fire marshal doesn’t want to go back and review hundreds of cases,” he said. “But that’s probably his duty.”

Governor Perry has fought the review of the case, and declined to participate in the hearing. Katherine Cesinger, his spokeswoman, said, “Nothing the Austin court does can change the fact that Todd Willingham was convicted in a trial court with the appropriate jurisdiction, and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers for murdering his three young daughters.”

The case, she noted, had worked its way through the appeals process and even reached the Supreme Court over the course of more than a decade. The governor has described Mr. Willingham as “an absolute monster who killed his own kids.”

Closing the hearing, former Gov. Mark White said that “the frailty of the system has been demonstrated clearly and overwhelmingly by the testimony brought forth in this court today.”

In an interview, Mr. Scheck said, “What we’ve proven is there was no crime” in the Willingham case.

“I would expect that at the end of the day, what we’ll get is an opinion that an innocent man was executed in Texas,” he added.

Even if that should happen, its impact will be minimal, said Kent Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a group that supports the death penalty.

“It’ll be trumpeted on the Death Penalty Information Center site,” he said, referring to a group that opposes capital punishment. “Nobody on the other side of the aisle is going to give it any credence.”

To one person attending the hearing, however, it was anything but meaningless. Eugenia Willingham, Mr. Willingham’s stepmother, said during a break in the proceedings that it was an important day.

“This is what he wanted us to do,” she said of her stepson. “He wanted us to stand up for him.”

3 Maggio 2019
E' stata la prima esecuzione in Georgia nel 2019, la precedente il 4 maggio di un anno fa

L'esecuzione di Scotty Morrow è purtroppo avvenuta. Preghiamo per lui e continuiamo a lottare per l'abolizione della pena di morte, perché non c'è giustizia senza vita

Gli appelli esauriti, la clemenza negata. Scotty ha chiesto ancora perdono ai familiari delle vittime
1 Maggio 2019

L'esecuzione di Dexter Johnson è stata temporaneamente sospesa. Ringraziamo tutti coloro che ci hanno aiutato a inviare migliaia di appelli!!!

15 Marzo 2019
dall'Osservatore Romano

Marazziti: la decisione presa dal nuovo governatore della California, Gavin Newsom, di mettere uno stop, forse definitivo, alle esecuzioni capitali è un gesto di coraggio politico

14 Marzo 2019

Pena di morte: grande segnale di speranza la sospensione in California, il più grande braccio della morte del mondo

28 Febbraio 2019

Messaggio di Papa Francesco al "7° Congresso Mondiale della World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

"La pena di morte una grave violazione del diritto alla vita di ogni persona. Non vengano eliminate altre vite, si offra la via del pentimento"
27 Novembre 2018
Roma, 28 novembre

IX Incontro internazionale dei ministri della Giustizia per "Un mondo senza pena di morte"

presso la Nuova Aula dei Gruppi parlamentari - Camera dei Deputati
tutte le notizie correlate

28 Novembre 2016

High court to examine mental disability, death penalty issue
12 Novembre 2016

Si rafforza la pena di morte negli Stati Uniti
11 Novembre 2016

Al liceo classico “Socrate” di Bari, conferenza “Non c’è giustizia senza vita”
24 Ottobre 2016
New York Times

The Death Penalty, Nearing Its End
4 Giugno 2016
The Washington Post

Meet the red-state conservatives fighting to abolish the death penalty
tutta la rassegna stampa correlata

Video promo Cities for Life 2015

18 visite

7 visite

12 visite

7 visite

6 visite
tutta i media correlati