Trial by Fire

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[pic] Trial by Fire Did Texas execute an innocent man? by David Grann September 7, 2009 [pic] Cameron Todd Willingham in his cell on death row, in 1994. He insisted upon his innocence in the deaths of his children and refused an offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence. Photograph by Ken Light. Related Links Audio: Grann on the Texas execution that may change the death penalty debate. Video: David Grann discusses the flaws of the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation. Ask the Author: Live chat with Grann Wednesday, September 2 at 3 P.M. E.T. The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the…show more content…
Upon opening the back door, Vasquez observed that there was just enough space to squeeze past the refrigerator blocking the exit. The air smelled of burned rubber and melted wires; a damp ash covered the ground, sticking to their boots. In the kitchen, Vasquez and Fogg discerned only smoke and heat damage—a sign that the fire had not originated there—and so they pushed deeper into the nine-hundred-and-seventy-five-square-foot building. A central corridor led past a utility room and the master bedroom, then past a small living room, on the left, and the children’s bedroom, on the right, ending at the front door, which opened onto the porch. Vasquez tried to take in everything, a process that he compared to entering one’s mother-in-law’s house for the first time: “I have the same curiosity.” In the utility room, he noticed on the wall pictures of skulls and what he later described as an image of “the Grim Reaper.” Then he turned into the master bedroom, where Amber’s body had been found. Most of the damage there was also from smoke and heat, suggesting that the fire had started farther down the hallway, and he headed that way, stepping over debris and ducking under insulation and wiring that hung down from the exposed ceiling. As he and Fogg removed some of the clutter, they noticed deep charring along the base of the walls. Because gases become buoyant when heated, flames ordinarily burn upward. But Vasquez and Fogg observed that the fire had burned extremely low
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