AG: Commission Cannot Rule on Willingham Arson Case

A decision by the Texas Attorney General Friday says the embattled Forensic Science Commission does not have jurisdiction to investigate the controversial Cameron Todd Willingham arson case that occurred before the panel’s creation in 2005.

Willingham was executed in 2004. Critics have said new science standards suggest the 1991 blaze that killed his children was not arson and that he was wrongly executed.

Former leader of the commission, Williams County District Attorney John Bradley, slowed down the panel's work and pushed members to find no misconduct by investigators.

Three years after the group began its investigation into the Willingham arson case, it published findings that made significant recommendations to improve future arson investigations. However, the commission did not decide whether or not the Willingham arson investigators were negligent.

They declined to rule on that until the AG made gave its opinion on the matter.

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Office Friday said, "Although the Forensic Science Commission may conduct investigations of incidents that occurred before September 1, 2005, the law that created the Commission prohibits the FSC from considering evidence that was tested or offered into evidence prior to that date."

Abbott said the panel’s investigative authority is limited to those laboratories, facilities, or entities that were accredited by the Department of Public Safety at the time the forensic analyses took place.

Bradley had his term expire in May. He was appointed in 2009 just as the panel was set to undertake the report critical of the arson evidence used to convict the father sent to death row.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Nizam Peerwani the new chairman. Peerwani is the chief medical examiner for Tarrant, Denton, Johnson and Parker counties.

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