Texas May Have Executed Innocent Man
Informant lied to strike a deal, says advocacy group
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2014 7:46 AM CST
This undated file photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Cameron Todd Willingham.   (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice, File)

(Newser) – Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 after being convicted of an especially heinous crime: murdering his three young daughters in a fire. But a decade later, the Innocence Project says newly discovered documents suggest something else heinous: The state killed an innocent man. As the New York Times explains, the prosecution's case relied on the testimony of jailhouse informant Johnny Webb, who claimed that Willingham had confessed to him. The Innocence Project says Webb lied to strike a deal for a lighter sentence on his own robbery charges, and it uncovered a note in Webb's file dictating that his charges were to be reduced "based on coop in Willingham," reports the Guardian. During Webb's testimony, he and the prosecution denied any such deal was in place.

The AP tracks down the lead prosecutor in the case, who still denies it. "The file may certainly reflect that we tried to get sentencing shortened, but it had nothing to do with any agreement relative to the Willingham trial," says John Jackson, who went on to become a judge and is now retired. The Innocence Project has filed an appeal with the state pardon board to have Willingham exonerated, but the ultimate decision will be made by Gov. Rick Perry or his successor. Perry called Willingham a "monster" 10 years ago in allowing his execution to take place, and a spokesperson says his position hasn't changed. Still, "we'll see what happens," says Willingham's stepmother. "I can't help but be hopeful."

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Showing 3 of 124 comments
Daryl
Mar 2, 2014 1:03 PM CST
i know of one in california that pulled his eyebrows up into horns and the way i hear it was and claimed to be evil and destroy people just because he could. he only cared about the "win" not the truth. in fact he made sure my cousin sent 36 years in for a crime that he was sentenced to 5 years for, this mostly because this prosecutor's activities and actions stealing his life...so the are way out of line a lot of times, and should probably get some time to contemplate their navels and their actions. in fact a wrongful intentional convection should if found to have hidden or otherwise misused evidence the prosecutor should get the same vacation he asked for....that would make them be sure before they at and if ay evidence should come up it would make sure that nothing ever like that would happen, kind of like in the old Greek days where if the patient died so did the doctor in this case prison, or in the case of this guy killed for no good reason, death. harsh yes but it would make things even and make sure that mistakes never happen.
Scott603
Mar 2, 2014 11:39 AM CST
One of the most shocking moments of my life was meeting a prosecutor at a party years ago who told me he didn't care if the people were innocent or not. He saw his job as putting people in jail. Period. And if innocent people ended up in jail he saw that as a failure of the defense, he wasn't concerned about it and lost no sleep over it.
Scott603
Mar 2, 2014 11:29 AM CST
We imprison a far far far higher percentage of people than any other nation on earth. 700% higher than Canada. If you figure that, at a bare minimum, 10% of the people in prison are innocent, that means we have a quarter million innocent people in jail . People who have lost all or a good portion of their life, family, relationships, finances, and mental health, over a mistake.