If you don't know yet who Cameron Todd Willingham is, you will soon enough during the coming election season.
Willingham was convicted of murder for the deaths of his three young children when his house burned down in 1991. In 2004, the state of Texas--under the guidance of Rick Perry-- executed the man. A wife-beater and "SOB," Willingham was no saint, but compelling evidence came to light in the intervening years that suggests Willingham was innocent of the crime.
"Incendiary," a new documentary about Willingham's case that premiered at SXSW, is now opening theatrically at Austin's Violet Crown Cinema this Friday. It will eventually land at New York's IFC Center, D.C.'s E Street Cinema, and Los Angeles's Laemmle, among other bookings, and is sure to stir up controversy and renew focus on a case that Perry has continually tried to bury.
The documentary offers compelling evidence for Willingham's innocence, along with a fantastic confrontational scene between the Innocence Project's Barry Scheck and obstructionist Perry-appointed GOP Texas District Attorney John Bradley, but more importantly, it makes Perry look clueless and excessively partisan, using his power and influence to undermine scientific evidence and the truth of the case.
In this clip on YouTube, which also appears in the film, you can see Perry try to defend the state's abhorrent legal record and use of capital punishment. (In Texas, DNA evidence has freed more wrongfully imprisoned men, 42, than any other in the country. Most tragically, Tim Cole was posthumously declared innocent after he died in prison in 1999 at age 39.)
And here's a local news report, on Fox 4 no less, that basically lays out the controversy, and Perry's playing politics with the justice system, removing panel members, prosecutors and forensic scientists, and other so-called "supposed experts," according to Perry, from the Texas Forensics Science Commission, who were looking into the Willingham case.