September 8, 2009

Charles Oliver: It couldn't happen here?

Did Texas execute an innocent man? Well, we may never know that, but an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission found that Cameron Todd Willingham should never have been convicted for arson for the fire that killed his two children. The state killed Willingham for that crime in 2004. The main evidence for Willingham’s guilt was a state fire marshal’s report that claimed the fire was intentionally set and that Willingham’s injuries from that fire were inconsistent with the story he told police. The expert’s report blasts both of those conclusions, stating that the fire marshal “seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires and how fire injuries are created” and his report was “nothing more than a collection of personal beliefs that have nothing to do with science-based fire investigation.” Since Willingham’s death, eight other forensic arson specialists have reached basically the same conclusions.

In Great Britain, Laura Ashworth wanted to donate her kidney to her mother Rachel Leake, but Ashworth died unexpectedly in April 2008 before the surgery could take place. Still, she’d signed a donor card, and she’d made her wishes clear, so family members asked if one of her kidneys could go to her mother. No dice, said British health officials. Ashworth’s kidneys had to go to those at the top of the transplant list, and Leake would have to wait her turn. Leake never made it to the top of the list. She passed away last month.

Police in Duluth, Ga., are searching for a man who stole a police cruiser. An officer arrested the man for DUI and placed him in the back of the car before going to search the U-Haul truck he’d been driving. The man somehow slipped out of the cuffs, kicked out the back window and drove off in the car before the officer noticed.

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