I did not have a strong opinion about the death penalty, and the prospect that someone like Timothy Mc Veigh might be executed was not something that kept me awake at night.
But researching this story and coming to terms with the prospect that an innocent person might be executed has had profound impact on me.
And the problems go beyond arson science; often “experts” are allowed to testify in court about methods, such as the interpretation of bite marks or blood patterns, that have not been scientifically validated.
A congressionally mandated study by the National Academy of Sciences, which was recently published, noted that there is “a dearth of peer-reviewed, published studies establishing the scientific bases and reliability of many forensic methods.” QUESTION FROM SARAH: How has your work on this article affected your view of the criminal-justice system? This is not an issue that I had previously investigated, and the Willingham case revealed not only flaws in that particular case but also systemic failures—from the appeals process to the system of clemency.
The average answer was about thirty-one miles per hour.