Incendiary — ’junk science’ in fire investigation

By Anna Sandiford 26/06/2011


The case of Cameron Todd Willingham has had a huge impact on the state of Texas. It should also be yet another case that justice systems around the world take a good, hard look at to make sure that such issues do not occur in their jurisdictions.

Cameron Todd Willingham was accused of setting a fire at his house in 1991 that resulted in the death of his three young children. He was sentenced to death and eventually executed in 2004, despite a last-minute request to the Governor of Texas for a Stay of Execution based on a lack of scientific evidence to support the arson theory. The Stay was refused and Mr Willingham was executed. Beyond what is described as “junk science” in relation to the fire investigation are alarmingly sinister political undertones.

A new documentary is now out about the case. Called “Incendiary”, an article and interview with the producer can be found here. The trailer should be embedded here but if not, it can be seen here.

I don’t proffer my opinion on this case because I don’t know enough about it, I haven’t seen the whole film and only the people who know all the information about a case should really form an opinion.

However, from this case I think we should, once again, learn that science presented in court must be tested. If we get it wrong, what is the cost?