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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"The Prosecutor and the Snitch"

In this extensive review of the infamous Cameron Todd Willingham case, the Marshall Project zeroes in on the role of the jailhouse informant, Johnny Webb, and the prosecutor who covered up his rewards.  Story here: The Prosecutor and the Snitch: Did Texas execute an innocent man?  According to the article, Webb "lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb’s prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line."

In post-trial interviews, Webb said that the prosecutor approached him about testifying:

"[H]e asked Jackson, “What’s going to be my deal?” and Jackson said, “If you help me, that robbery will disappear ... even if you’re convicted now, I can get it off of you later.”  ...“He says, ‘Your story doesn't have to match exactly... He says, ‘I want you to just say he put fires in the corners. I need you to be able to say that so we can convict him, otherwise we’re going to have a murderer running our streets.’ ” ...  “He [Jackson] had me believing 100 percent this dude was guilty — that’s why I testified,” Webb said. “The perks — they was willing to do anything to help me. No one has ever done that, so why wouldn’t I help them?” In fact, Webb said, Willingham “never told me nothing.”