October 6th, 2010
06:30 PM ET

Ex-wife backs execution in Texas arson-murder case

Cameron Todd Willingham's ex-wife says he told her that he killed their daughters.

Did the state of Texas execute an innocent man? His ex-wife doesn't think so.

A judge is set to weigh claims of innocence next week on behalf of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for setting a fire that killed his three daughters in 1991.

State District Judge Charles Baird granted a hearing request from Willingham's mother and sister on whether he was wrongfully convicted using flawed science. The family's petition, filed September 24 in Travis County, also asks the court to examine whether the state  failed to adequately consider potentially exculpatory evidence before putting Willingham to death in 2004.

A two-day hearing on the matter was scheduled to begin Wednesday. It was rescheduled for October 14 after district attorneys in Williamson and Navarro counties asked the judge to recuse himself, CNN affiliate KXAN reported.

Both attorneys accused Baird of having political motivations for granting the hearing, a rare proceeding known as a court of inquiry. They stand behind the conviction, as does Gov. Rick Perry and Willingham's ex-wife, Stacey Kuykendall.

"Todd murdered Amber, Karmon and Kameron. He burnt them. He admitted he burnt them to me, that he was convicted for his crime. That is the closest to justice that my daughters will ever get," Kuykendall said in a statement read to the media outside the Travis County Courthouse in Austin on Wednesday, where the hearing was supposed to take place.

Amber would be 21 years old today and the twins, Karmon and Kameron, would be 19, she said.

"I am here today to stand up one last time on behalf of my daughters," she said. "I think about my girls every day and I miss them."

Kuykendall has publicly stated before that Willingham confessed to setting the fire. Journalist David Grann, who brought the case into the national spotlight with a New Yorker article in 2009, followed up in a blog post on Kuykendall's comments, saying they were inconsistent with previous statements she'd made.

The closely watched case has been the subject of three independent reviews that have concluded the fire should not have been ruled arson. The most recent one, which was ordered by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, ruled in July that investigators used science available to them at the time, even though it was flawed.

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Filed under: Courts • Death Penalty • Texas
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Pam

    Everyone is missing the point yes quilty or not he answered to god an alot say he is dead but truth needs to be known an how would you feel if it were you? Or what if it were your loved one? After they were gone an it was proved they were innocent would you be ok with the injustice? Our law has been shown an proved wrong many many times. I would be devastated no you cant bring them back but you can bring justice an if you can take being killed for what you didnt do you are a mighty big person

    October 6, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DGrooms

    If you accept the death penalty as just method of punishment, then you must accept that a number of innocents will be killed along with the guilty. When there is no way to be 100% sure of someone's guilt, putting them to death is, at best, revenge and, at worst, murder. As long as America is willing to stand by the idea that anyone has a right to take another life the death penalty will be with us. By the way, is it me, or does Texas death row seem to be consuming inmates like popcorn?

    October 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bella

    Omg shut up evry1

    October 7, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. chels

    If you believe in the death penalty you are no better than the people who are on death row. You are a murderer. It's a shame.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. nicole

    Religion aside... After being accused and in prison how do any of us know whether or not he might have said something along the lines of "I feel responsible" (as a parent of course) and it was twisted into an alleged confession? She's changed her story so often his words may have been emotions any parent would express losing 3 children. Everyone seems to have an opinion but imagine the most extreme situation you've ever been in and say with confidence you handled in such a way that you wouldn't change it if you could. This is highly debatable, and I absolutely think its worth a 2nd look for the sake of the rest of his family.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • mtngrrll

      I am not real 'up' on the case – what possible motive would he have had to kill his 3 small children? Especially since he was still married, and there was no custody battle.

      October 7, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. chelsea

    If you believe in the death penaltty you are no better than the people who are on death row. You are a murderer. It's a shame.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. nicole

    Sorry chelsea but people that are rightfully convivted and sentenced to death does not make those who seek justice on behalf of people they've lost murderers. A flawed system that wrongfully convicts innocent people and sentences them to death is where the shame is...

    October 7, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jim Brieske

    Dr. Wick. You are an idiot. The person who wrote you can't be absolutely sure if someone is guilty is just as stupid. Those of you who believe the penalty is wrong are a bunch of enablers, merely accomplices to murders. The only way to reduce murder is to set aside any blame on society that causes sympathy for defendants while ignoring the victim, his or her family members, friends, coworkers, fellow students and neighbors. You publicly execute murderers the day after being sentenced to death. You sell hotdogs, cokes, cotton candy and t shirts. This vastly reduces (by at least 75%) the number of murders that have not occurred yet.
    If you are wrong, which 99.9% of time you are not, then the person goes to Heaven instead of Hell!
    For others who shamefully commented, your continued failure to believe in God is going to get everyone killed.
    jim

    October 7, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. nicole

    Good point mtngrrll... A mother convicted of drowning her 3 kids was said to be insane... A father convicted of burning his 3 kids is a murderer and deserves death??? How do we differentiate btwn the two?

    October 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. james ulrich

    what he said to her is hearsay. it's not even admissible as evidence in a court of law. there has to be evidence of a crime. accusation is not evidence of a crime. only the forensics existed as evidence and that was botched and slanted. junk science is famous for getting convictions for unaccountable prosecutors needing someone to take the fall and get them their notch.

    October 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
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