Informant Lied in Death Penalty Case

A blockbuster report Monday from The Washington Post reveals prosecutors got a jailhouse informant to lie about a capital murder case in exchange for a lighter sentence. In 1992, Cameron Todd Willingham of Texas was convicted of killing his three daughters by lighting their house on fire. Key to the prosecution’s case was testimony from Johnny E. Webb, who testified in court that Willingham told him how he started the fires. In 2004, Willingham was executed despite serious doubts about forensic evidence. Now, Webb says his testimony was coerced by prosecutor John H. Jackson, who arranged for Webb’s sentence to be lightened and to secure funds for him from a wealthy rancher. If this behavior had been exposed before Willingham’s execution, he may have been entitled to a new trial. The Innocence Project, a New York-based advocacy group, called for an investigation into Jackson’s conduct, charging he “violated core principles of the legal profession, and did so with terrible consequences ... the execution of an innocent man.”