47.9 F
Fort Worth
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Government Texas fire review panel flags murder case

Texas fire review panel flags murder case

Other News

Tarrant County DA’s office changing how it handles misdemeanor marijuna cases

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office is changing how it handles misdemeanor marijuana cases. The Tarrant County  Criminal District Attorney’s Office on Monday, Nov....

Arlington selects new police chief from Baltimore department

Col. Al Jones, a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, has been appointed the new police chief of the the City of...

Family of Black woman shot through window sues Texas officer

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Family members of a Black woman who was killed when a white police officer fired through a window of...

Law firm offers free estate plans for health care workers during pandemic

Fort Worth attorney Erik Martin says he felt compelled to find a way for his law firm to join the effort to support frontline...
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

 

NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Two decades after she was convicted of murdering her uncle by setting him on fire, a Texas woman has the backing of a state panel that examines arson investigations for problems.

Sonia Cacy was convicted of murder for the 1991 death of her uncle, Bill Richardson, in their home in the West Texas city of Fort Stockton. A doctor who examined Richardson’s body testified he was alive when the fire started. Another expert said he thought an accelerant was used in the blaze.

But members of the Science Advisory Workgroup, established by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, say those claims are inaccurate. Fire Marshal Chris Connealy sent an August letter to Pecos County prosecutors saying the investigation used at trial cannot be supported under “present day scientific standards.”

The letter says the fire could not have been judged as caused by gasoline under current lab standards, nor could Richardson have been judged to have been alive when the fire ignited.

Some older arson cases are coming under scrutiny as fire investigation science has changed. The State Fire Marshal’s office is working with outside experts and wrongful-conviction advocates to look at potentially problematic cases — a rare collaboration between officials who are often at odds.

The panel, which first convened in January, has flagged a Waco-area man’s murder conviction for setting his house on fire and killing his two stepsons, as well as a Houston-area man’s arson conviction.

Cacy was sentenced to 99 years in prison, but was paroled in 1998 after just five years. She’s now 66 and lives with a niece near Granbury, in North Texas. Other than a short stint in jail after a 2011 arrest for driving while intoxicated, she hasn’t had any parole violations. Cacy said she gets by on Social Security payments and has struggled for 15 years with the stigma of her conviction every time she applies for a place to live or find a job.

“As soon as you write down you’re a felon, and they ask what it’s for, it’s ridiculous,” Cacy said.

An appeal of her conviction by the Innocence Project of Texas is pending, with no hearings expected until early next year.

Rod Ponton, the district attorney handling Cacy’s case, questioned whether the workgroup’s work was appropriate and said there was “abundant evidence” of Cacy’s guilt, but declined to say what he thought was the strongest.

“Her conviction was not solely based on fire evidence,” Ponton said. “It’s vastly different than some of the other cases that have been written about.”

Fire investigations in Texas have come under heightened criticism from wrongful-conviction advocates, particularly after the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was condemned for a deadly house fire that killed his three daughters. Questions and publicity from the Willingham case drove a state review and several recommendations for improved use of fire science.

___


close






Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Latest News

JRB Fort Worth chosen for main operating base for C-130J aircraft

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth has been selected as a main operating base for eight C-130J aircraft at the 136th Airlift...

Tarrant County DA’s office changing how it handles misdemeanor marijuna cases

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office is changing how it handles misdemeanor marijuana cases. The Tarrant County  Criminal District Attorney’s Office on Monday, Nov....

Arlington selects new police chief from Baltimore department

Col. Al Jones, a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, has been appointed the new police chief of the the City of...

GM flips to California’s side in pollution fight with Trump

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors says it will no longer support the Trump administration in legal efforts to end California’s right to set its...

Fort Worth out of running for Space Command HQ, San Antonio still in

A Texas city could still host the U.S. Space Command headquarters, but it’s not going to be Fort Worth. The U.S. Air Force has narrowed...