The justice system is supposed to be able to cope with narrow-minded, overzealous authorities. That’s what the defense is for, and it doesn’t seem like Willingham’s defense has come in for its fair share of criticism. The problem is that there wasn’t much to it, so there’s not much to hang your criticism on. The fire inspectors produced page after page of old wives’ tales and other nonsense (answered years later by page after page of debunking), the prosecution added a healthy dose of rhetoric and innuendo, and the defense responded with… the babysitter.
Apparently Willingham’s defense was judged to be technically adequate during the appeals process. As I understand it, all that means is that no egregious errors were made. Willingham’s defense may have been error-free but it was still worthless.
Needless to say, when Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife were charged with arson they didn’t settle for a defense that was merely adequate. Their defense was to Willingham’s as a tank is to a BB gun. The charges against Medina were a bit of an ironic reversal, too — as Gov. Rick Perry’s general counsel he had a role in denying Willingham a last-minute stay of execution. Did he give a minute’s thought to the enormous difference between the defense the soon-to-be dead man got and the one he’d insist on for himself? I doubt it.