When I was a kid, often times when money was funny we would try to warm the house with space heaters or keeping the oven door open. Not once did we ever think that it could cause any of us to lose our lives. Neither did Cameron Todd Willingham. Willigham was sentence to life by lethal injection in the state of Texas for allegedly setting his kids on fire. Having a reputation for having a temper, being a butthead and beating his wife certainly didn’t help his case.
Trial By Fire opens with a young Amber Willingham’s body being tagged and charred clothes being cut off in the death examiner’s room setting the stage for an emotionally charged drama directed by Edward Zwick. I was riveted to this film, as I vaguely remembered this whole scenario being played out in real life. Person after person getting not the stand, painting the portrait of a wicked child that has somehow turned into a wicked man capable of murdering his own children by fire.
Although Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell are giving gut-wrenching performances, the real star of this film is how capital punishment in America is grossly unjust many instances. As one of the characters says, “…if you ain’t got no capital you get punishment.” 158 people have been killed by lethal injection on death row before evidence was released and/or discovered there were actually innocent.
in this instance, then Texas Governor Rick Perry had his eyes set on becoming the next President of the United States. He settled for becoming the Secretary of Energy for the Trump Administration. It was suggested that Mr. Perry suppressed evidence that would have set Todd free. Evidence proving without a shadow of a doubt that the fire was caused by the faulty wire of a wall space heater and not set intentionally.
We are also privy to how dismissive legal entities were toward Liz (Laura Dern) when she suggested that the legal teams on both side had several misfires pertaining to the trial. Not too far removed from the dismissal of legal entities right as it pertains to the rights of women and abortion. Interesting isn’t it? Liz is repeatedly told not to let her emotions get in the way of the truth.
Well, the truth did not set Willingham free, but maybe by sharing this story, someone else who is sitting on death row for a crime they didn’t commit can be spared. Trial by Fire, produced by Roadside Attractions opened on May 17th.