Two days before the Texas Forensic Science Commission was to meet to review a report submitted by noted arson investigator Craig Beyler regarding the fire that led to the conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004, Governor Rick Perry dismissed 3 members of the Commission. The governor named 2 new members, but the abrupt (and unexpected) dismissals will force the Commission to put off its review of the report for several months. Although the Commissioners at issue all were at the end of their terms, none expected to be let go and all anticipated reviewing Dr. Beyler’s findings.
Perhaps tellingly, the report called into serious question the 1994 testimony of the local fire marshal who had deemed the fire, which killed Mr. Willingham’s 3 small children, an arson. Indeed, the report referred to the fire marshal’s testimony as based upon “old wive’s tales” and a gross misunderstanding of the science of fire. According to Dr. Beyler’s report, the fire was not arson but accidental; just as Mr. Willingham maintained to his last breath.
While Governor Perry denies any connection between the Commission dismissals and Dr. Beyler’s conclusion, the timing necessitates a postponement of the meeting at which the report was to be considered. A new meeting has not yet been set.