Further information: Cameron Todd Willingham
Cameron Todd Willingham was a Texas man whose three young children died in a 1991 fire at the family home in Corsicana, Texas. Willingham, accused of having set the fire, was convicted of murder and was executed in 2004. Shortly before the execution and after several years of unsuccessful appeals, an arson expert, Gerald Hurst, filed a report advising Perry that the forensic investigation was flawed and the arson claim unproven, but Perry and the 15-member Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to offer clemency.
Willingham's case gained renewed attention in 2009 after The New Yorker published a story that drew upon the investigations of Hurst and anti-death penalty advocate Elizabeth Gilbert.
In 2005, Texas established a nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC). As part of the Commission's inquiry into the Willingham case, another fire scientist wrote a report that agreed with Gerald Hurst that the charge of arson could not be sustained given the available evidence. Forty-eight hours before the Commission was to hold a hearing on this report, Perry replaced three of members of the TFSC. Perry's newly appointed Chairman promptly canceled the hearing. Perry denied that the dismissals were related to the case, noting that the terms of the replaced persons were expiring.
In July 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that the Commission's mandate with respect to reviewing forensic evidence was limited to evidence gathered or tested before 2005, thus implying that a Commission conclusion regarding the forensic science used in the Willingham case would not be forthcoming.