Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jailhouse Snitch Johnny Webb Sees Innocent Man Cameron Todd Willingham Lethally Injected

We know some of you may be pressed for time, but we'd encourage you to read the piece by the New Yorker concerning Texas death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham. Sentenced to death for a fire that devoured three of his small children, he maintained his innocence through more than a decade of incarceration. He was convicted mostly on inaccurate fire sciences conducted by questionable arson investigators as well as the testimony of a jailhouse snitch that barely corroborates the basic story. An excerpt from the article:

Jailhouse informants, many of whom are seeking reduced time or special privileges, are notoriously unreliable. According to a 2004 study by the Center on Wrongful Convictions, at Northwestern University Law School, lying police and jailhouse informants are the leading cause of wrongful convictions in capital cases in the United States. At the time that Webb came forward against Willingham, he was facing charges of robbery and forgery. During Willingham’s trial, another inmate planned to testify that he had overheard Webb saying to another prisoner that he was hoping to “get time cut,” but the testimony was ruled inadmissible, because it was hearsay. Webb, who pleaded guilty to the robbery and forgery charges, received a sentence of fifteen years. Jackson, the prosecutor, told me that he generally considered Webb “an unreliable kind of guy,” but added, “I saw no real motive for him to make a statement like this if it wasn’t true. We didn’t cut him any slack.” In 1997, five years after Willingham’s trial, Jackson urged the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Webb parole. “I asked them to cut him loose early,” Jackson told me. The reason, Jackson said, was that Webb had been targeted by the Aryan Brotherhood. The board granted Webb parole, but within months of his release he was caught with cocaine and returned to prison.
Considering the testimony of another inmate claiming Webb was full of shit was ruled inadmissible as hearsay, it comes as some what of a shock that Webb's testimony was accepted as well... Because you know... It was fucking hearsay.

Hopefully death will not be in vain, Willingham's name will be cleared, and Texas, the American judicial system, and the State will admit that their system is not perfect, their fail-safes not bulletproof, and that they executed an innocent man in the face of glaring evidence proving his case. The full story is heartwrenching and frusterating.

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