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Trial Starts to Determine if Todd Willingham’s Prosecutor Hid Evidence

By , April 29, 2017

Todd WillinghamFrom the Corsicana Daily Sun, Trial of prosecutor rekindles death row ashes:

John Jackson helped send Cameron Todd Willingham to death row, but on Monday, lawyers began screening a jury to decide if he hid evidence that could have spared Willingham.

“It’s the perfect storm of a case at this time when interest in exonerations is sweeping the country,” said Houston criminal-defense attorney John Floyd. “It’s in the very top of these exoneration cases.”

The civil judicial-misconduct trial will take place in the Navarro County Courthouse where Jackson, then an assistant district attorney, in 1992 persuaded jurors to find Willingham guilty of capital murder for torching the Corsicana home in which his three young daughters died.

The adequacy of the arson evidence in Willingham’s high-profile trial was the subject of several critical investigations after the conviction.

But it’s the circumstances surrounding a purported jailhouse confession that prompted the New York-based Innocence Project to file a grievance against Jackson with the state bar association’s Commission for Lawyer Discipline.

According to the grievance, “… Jackson illegally and unethically made an undisclosed deal” with Willingham’s fellow inmate, Johnny E. Webb, to grant Webb a series of favors in return for testifying that Willingham confessed to the crime.

Webb subsequently recanted the testimony of Willingham’s alleged confession to setting the blaze in which his daughters died.

The Innocence Project has submitted an interview with Webb, “recorded in the presence of his current counsel, which supplements and corroborates the documentary record showing Jackson’s misconduct,” according to its grievance.

According to the bar commission’s petition, Jackson knew “before, during and after the 1992 trial … of the existence of evidence that tended to negate the guilt of Willingham and failed to disclose that evidence to defense counsel.”

Moreover, “(Jackson) failed to make timely disclosure to the defense details of an agreement for favorable treatment for Webb, an inmate, in exchange for Webb’s testimony at trial for the state,” according to the petition.

Before the trial, Jackson also said he had no evidence favorable to Willingham, who was executed in 2004, according to the petition.

Jackson, who went on to become a district judge, also worked to have Webb’s conviction changed from aggravated robbery to robbery, and requested early parole for Webb with the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the bar alleged.

Jackson signed warrants for Webb so he would be transferred from prison to the Navarro County jail.

Read the rest of the article at the Corsicana Daily Sun.

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