Wrongly Convicted Database Record

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Ernest Ray Willis

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Judicially Exonerated Released

Summary of Case:

Wrongly convicted in 1987 of arson and murder in a death caused by a fire. Ernest Willis' conviction was based on expert testimony for the prosecution that the fire was an arson. Willis was setenced to death. Willis obtained evidence by experts that based on new knowledge about fires that the fire was in fact an accident. Willis' was overturned, and he was released on October 6, 2004 when the prosecutor conceeded that the fire that caused the death Willis was convicted of causing, was actually an accident. Willis' indictment was dismissed. He spent 17 years on death row. On August 17, 2009 Dr. Craig Breyer's issued a report commissioned by the Texas Forensic Science Commission that concluded the fire in Willis' case, and that of Cameron Todd Willingham were both started accidentally, and were not arsons. Willingham was executed in February 2004.

Conviction Caused By:

Erroneous expert testimony that the fire was an arson.

Innocence Proved By:

Prosecution conceeded evidence indicated the fire that caused the death was an accident.

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Was Perpetrator Found?

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Information Source 1:

Death-row Inmate freed after 17 years, Michael Gracyzk, Dec 6, 2004, (Huntsville, TX), Associated Press

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Information Source 2:

"Analysis of the Fire Investigation Methods and Procedures Used in the Criminal Arson Cases Against Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham" By Dr. Craig Beyler, August 17, 2009, submitted to Texas Forensic Science Commission, Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice, Huntsville, TX."

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org