Today, it was revealed that a Texas man executed in 2004 for setting fire to his home (killing his three children) was in fact, innocent (as overwhelming evidence suggests). According to a report by national arson expert Craig Beyler (as reported in a post at The American Constitution Society and linked here), " The investigators [in Willingham's case] had poor understandings of fire science and failed to acknowledge or apply the contemporaneous understanding of the limitations of fire indicators. Their methodologies did not comport with the scientific method or the process of elimination."
One wonders why this man was executed before this hard-hitting investigation took place. It goes without saying that it doesn't do Mr. Willingham (who professed his innocence throughout his sentence) much good now – he's been dead for five years.
As the National ACLU blog points out, a system that is flawed enough to put even one innocent person to death is not fit to impose the death penalty.
" It bears repeating that 135 people have been exonerated from this country’s death rows since 1973. One of those exonerees is Ernest Willis, who served 17 years after being convicted and sentenced to death for a crime nearly identical to Willingham’s. Given the overwhelming evidence from four separate forensic examinations of the fire — conducted by the Chicago Tribune, the Innocence Project (PDF), Dr. Gerald Hurst and Craig Beyler (PDF) — Texas has executed an innocent man. That state’s investigation of the evidence in Willingham’s case is too little, too late."
There's an exhaustively researched (and exceptionally well-written) New Yorker piece on the case as well.