Contrarian Watch



Dave Mann

I was alarmed to realize yesterday that I’d gone a week without posting anything. My apologies for the absence (this week I’ll return to posting daily.) I spent last week writing a cover story for the Observer’s next issue. It’s about a Houston man who’s spent the past 20 years in prison for a crime he likely didn’t commit.

I spent six months investigating the case. I believe an innocent man was convicted of starting a house fire in Houston that killed four people. Several arson experts told me the fire likely was accidental. Yet the man sent to prison for this apparently nonexistent crime has 20 years left on his sentence.

This will be the third story in our “Burn Patterns” series on flawed arson convictions. You can read the first two pieces — about Curtis Severns and Ed Graf — here and here.

The issue of flawed arson convictions is garnering lots of attention these days after the recent developments in the Cameron Todd Willingham case (Nightline was the latest to weigh in late last week).

The story about the Houston case will be published next Thursday.

Do you think free access to journalism like this is important?
The Texas Observer depends on support from its members to keep telling stories like the one you are reading now. This fall we're looking for 200 more sustaining members—people like you who can give us as little as $0.99 per month. Your membership means we can continue shedding light on issues that might otherwise go unreported. Can we count on you?

Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.