• Ada Be

On the occasion of Texas governor Rick Perry’s entry into the Republican presidential primary, the New Yorker is highlighting on its website David Grann’s astonishing 2009 feature about Cameron Todd Willingham, a potentially innocent man accused of—and executed for—lighting a house fire that killed his three children. “Trial by Fire” reiterates some of what the Chicago Tribune found in a 2004 analysis—namely that the techniques used by investigators into the alleged arson were outdated and misleading. “There’s nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire,” chemist Gerald Hurst, who authored a report on the case, told the Trib. “It was just a fire.”

Even Edward Cheever, one of the state deputy fire marshals who had assisted in the original investigation of the 1991 fire, acknowledged that Hurst’s criticism was valid.

“At the time of the Corsicana fire, we were still testifying to things that aren’t accurate today,” he said. “They were true then, but they aren’t now.

“Hurst,” he added, “was pretty much right on. … We know now not to make those same assumptions.”