In 2004, the state of Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham for the crime of setting fire to his own house, killing his three children. Today, evidence is stronger than ever that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice.
In 2009, David Grann wrote a masterful New Yorker story laying out the evidence that Texas might have killed an innocent man when it executed Willingham. (In short: the case against Willingham was based on faulty fire investigation and faulty, unjustified assumptions on the part of the prosecution.) The Innocence Project has been working for years to clear Willingham's name posthumously. Now, evidence of yet another serious flaw in the prosecution's case has emerged.
The main thing that led to Willingham's conviction, besides the testimony of the fire investigator, was the testimony of Johnny Webb—a convict who was in jail with Willingham—who said that Willingham had confessed the murder to him. At the time of the trial, both Webb and the prosecutor, John Jackson, said that Webb was not offered anything in exchange for his testimony. But a note discovered in recently released case files contradicts that. From the New York Times:
As [a lawyer with the Innocence Project] worked through the stack of papers, he saw a note scrawled on the inside of the district attorney's file folder stating that Mr. Webb's charges were to be listed as robbery in the second degree, not the heavier first-degree robbery charge he had originally been convicted on, "based on coop in Willingham."
If true, this would mean not only that Webb had a motive to lie about Willingham, but that both Webb and the prosecutor did lie about whether that motive existed.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is currently considering whether to exonerate Willingham. Cameron Todd Willingham himself remains dead.