The Texas Fire Marshal’s Association is holding its 12th Annual Texas Fire Marshals’ Conference Oct 18-22 in Austin at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. It will be interesting to see if any of their members will criticize State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado for writing a letter to the Texas Forensic Science Commission standing by his agency’s role in the error-filled fire investigation that led to the conviction of Todd Willingham. Maldonado is scheduled to speak Monday at 9 AM to welcome attendees and again on Thursday Oct 21 from 1-1:50 to give an update from the State Fire Marshal’s Office (see the full schedule here).
The Texas Tribune reported that during the Court of Inquiry last Thursday “(Barry) Scheck asked fire expert John Lentini to explain current fire marshal Paul Maldonado’s continued support of Vasquez’s investigations. “He is misinformed,” Lentini said, adding that Maldonado’s position “cannot be explained in terms of valid science or logic.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office stands behind its controversial conclusion that Cameron Todd Willingham started the house fire that killed his three children in 1991, contradicting arson experts and scientists who insist the agency relied on bad science in its investigation.In a pointed letter to the Texas Forensic Science Commission , which is nearing the end of a contentious review of the Willingham arson investigation, Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado defended his agency’s handling of the case that led to Willingham’s execution in 2004.In July, the commission announced a tentative finding that investigators employed “flawed science” — including now-debunked beliefs that certain fire behaviors point to arson — to conclude that Willingham intentionally set fire to his Corsicana home.But Maldonado said his agency’s investigation remains valid, even after modern, scientific arson standards are applied.“We stand by the original investigator’s report and conclusions,” Maldonado said in his Aug. 20 letter to the commission. “Should any subsequent analysis be performed to test other theories and possibilities of the cause and origin of the fire, we will of course re-examine the report again.”