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Junk Science and the Execution of an Innocent Man

New York University Journal of Law & Liberty, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2013)

Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-18

35 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2011 Last revised: 9 Nov 2014

Paul C. Giannelli

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Abstract

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

Giannelli, Paul C., Junk Science and the Execution of an Innocent Man. New York University Journal of Law & Liberty, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2013); Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1917454 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1917454

Paul C. Giannelli (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
216-368-2098 (Phone)
216-368-2086 (Fax)

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