Junk Science and the Execution of an Innocent Man
New York University Journal of Law & Liberty, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2013)
35 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2011 Last revised: 9 Nov 2014
Cameron Todd Willingham was tried and executed for the arson deaths of his three little girls. The expert testimony offered against him to establish arson was junk science.
The case has since become infamous, the subject of an award-winning New Yorker article, numerous newspaper accounts, and several television shows. It also became enmeshed in the death penalty debate and the reelection of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who refused to grant a stay of execution after a noted arson expert submitted a report debunking the “science” offered at Willingham’s trial. The governor then attempted to derail an investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission into the arson evidence presented at Willingham’s trial.
Keywords: junk science, criminal law, arson, death penalty, wrongful conviction
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation