Many of you have probably already read the excellent New Yorker piece on the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. Briefly, Willingham was convicted largely on the basis of deeply flawed pseudo-science about the nature of fires.
Reading over the New Yorker description of the trial and the prosecutor’s piece, it’s hard to believe this all took place a decade ago and not a century ago.
Update. Commenter EconWatcher relates a first-hand story about the Texas justice system:
Years ago I worked pro bono on a Texas death penalty case. The judicial system there is medieval. You literally cannot beleive it. In the case I worked on, the prosecutor quoted from the Bible to argue to the jury that Holy Scripture required them to render the death penalty. He specifically quoted St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (“He is the wrath of God, to execute God’s vengenance on the wrongdoer.”)
Then I did some research and found out that this was standard practice for Texas prosecutors in death cases (at least in the 1980s). They were actually trained to use the same quote, apparently because it was market-tested as effective with Baptist juries.
(By the way, after years of struggle, my client was executed in July 1997. There is no feeling of defeat that can compare to it.)