Big Tobacco’s Big Whine Do you hear that long, low, wheezing whine? That’s Big Tobacco, moaning that it’s being picked on by a new law passed this year to restrict cigarette company advertising. Picked on? This is the industry that continues to profit by picking on the public with addictive, carcinogenic products that kill 440,000 Americans a year. This is the industry that has lied repeatedly to consumers and regulators about the deadly dangers of its products, that secretly juiced up the products’ nicotine levels to hook unsuspecting customers, that cynically used its marketing muscle to lure children into cigarette addiction, and that aggressively pitched “light” cigarettes to young women, falsely asserting that these products are safer. This industry has no right whatsoever to whine. But with millions of addicted customers, the tobacco giants are so rich they’ve retained a gaggle of high-priced lawyers to go to court, citing the First Amendment to market their smokes without the new law’s public-safety restrictions. Led by R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco, the lawsuit wails that advertising constraints infringe on their constitutional right to communicate with customers about such new products as their “reduced harm” cigarettes. There they go again with their trickery”reduced harm,” even if true, is still harm. It’s still addictive and deadly. Why should profiteering corporations be unleashed to market any level of deliberate harm, especially in ads that would reach children? Another act of trickery is that the industry went court shopping, filing their lawsuit in Kentuckywhich leads the nation in smoking, is a major tobacco producer and has an industry-friendly court system. They can whine till the cows come home, but this lawsuit is not about constitutional rights, it’s about tobacco corporation greed. The Voice of the COMMUNITY under a closed door as improbable, especially considering that chemical tests found no traces of gasoline at the fire scene. They also pointed out that Guardiola had no motive to set the fire. He hadn’t burglarized the house. Although he knew the people who did, he hadn’t been involved in the break-ins. He didn’t know the family, so it would have been unlikely they could implicate him. But the jury couldn’t get past the confession. A juror would later tell the defense team she couldn’t envision an innocent man confessing to something he didn’t do. Guardiola was convicted and sentenced to 4o years in prison. With credit for time served since his arrest, he still has 20 years left on his sentence. In the two decades that Guardiola’s been in prison, the science of fire investigation and the study of false confessions have both evolved considerably. Much of the evidence that convicted Guardiola in 1993 now looks outdated. Many of the indicators of arson that investigators once relied on have been proven wrong under scientific testing. Similarly, we now know that innocent people do confess to crimes they didn’t commit. And detailed research has revealed the kinds of interrogation tactics that lead people to falsely confess, several of which Guardiola was exposed to. A six-month Observer investigation of the caseusing new research into arson and false confessionsshows that Guardiola is probably innocent. Nationally recognized experts who examined the case at the Observer’s request say that the fire in Denver Harbor most likely was accidental. If the fire wasn’t arson, then there was no crime. In Guardiola’s case, bad forensic work combined with a coercive interrogation may have led an innocent man to confess to a crime that never took place. Guardiola’s case has remained unexamined for more than nine years, since he lost a final appeal in 2000. The Observer unearthed the details of Guardiola’s story while examining old cases as part of an inves tigation into flawed arson convictions \(see “Burn Patterns” Gerald Hurst to examine the physical evidence. Hurst, who holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Cambridge, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on fire and explosives. In the past decade, he has helped exonerate dozens of people wrongly convicted of arson. He’s recently become well-known for his work on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for supposedly starting a fire that killed his three children. Willingham was almost assuredly innocent, and his case has become a national sensation since it was profiled in The New Yorker in late August. The Observer provided Hurst with the transcript of Guardiola’s trial, hundreds of pages of documents from the Houston Fire Department and dozens of photos taken at the scene. The first detail Hurst noticed was that investigators turned up no traces of gasoline inside or outside the Gonzales house. This seemed strange. Had an arsonist poured a gallon of gasoline around a house, you would expect to find chemical traces of it for weeks afterward, particularly in the soil along the outside of the house. Yet a technician with the Houston Fire Department HIGHTOWER OCTOBER 2, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 11
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