Nine years after Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death by the Sate of Texas, his family is asking the governor to clear his name.
At a press conference Friday, attorneys with the Innocence Project and Willingham’s family made a plea to Gov. Perry to pardon the Coriscana man posthumously.
Willingham was convicted of starting a 1992 house fire that killed his three children. In 2009, an expert with the Texas Forensics Science Commission ruled the original investigation was based on junk science, and that there was no evidence of foul play found at the scene. Willingham maintained his innocence until the end.
Now, a jail house snitch who testified at the trial against Willingham is changing his story. Johnny Webb said he lied after Navarro County investigators offered him a deal on an unrelated case. Willingham's attorneys say they have evidence to show that Webb was given a lighter prison sentence because of his testimony.
"If we can't be sure that the people we are executing in this state are truly guilty, then we have something severely wrong with our system," Texas Defender Service Executive Director Kathryn Kase said.
Exoneree Michael Morton also attended Friday's press conference. Morton was released from prison two years ago after spending more than 24 years behind bars for the murder of his wife. DNA evidence tested decades later proved his innocence. Now, he says it’s time for Gov. Perry to take another look at the Willingham case.
"We are here for one simple reason,” Morton said. “It is to request a brief audience with him.”
Willingham's attorneys say during the 1992 arson-triple murder investigation, prosecutors buried evidence which could have proven favorable to the now-believed innocent man. Prosecutorial misconduct was also a factor in Morton's wrongful conviction.
"We need reform. We need to make sure that this never happens again,” Gerry Goldstein with the Innocence Project said. “I do not think this is a question of whose blood is on our hands in the past. I'm worried about whether we are going to let this happen again."
Governor Perry's staff did meet with the mother of Todd Willingham and Michael Morton. Eugenia Willingham says she is cautiously optimistic that the governor will review her son's case.
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