Trial by Fire (2018) - full transcript

The tragic and controversial story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for killing his three children after scientific evidence and expert testimony that bolstered his claims of innocence were suppressed.

- Daddy!

My babies.

-Mom? Mom!
- My babies, help!

Mommy, come here.
There's a fire!

There's a fire in there!

Call the fire department!

Yes. Hello,
I'd like to report fire.

Yes, it's 1213 West 11th Street.

Uh, yeah.

It's my-- It's my neighbor's.

Yes, there is...
There's babies in there.

I don't know.

There's been an explosion.

Oh, my God.

Please, God.

-Please, let them be all right.

Please, please, God.

I'm sorry.

It didn't start in here.

What a sick puppy.

Well, lookie here.

He didn't take no chances.

Check this out.

Crazed glass.

Kids' room.

Piece of shit waited
'till they were asleep.

So, he pours the accelerant

-And it flashes over.
-It goes straight out the door.

-Right along that baseboard.

Onto the porch.

Son of a bitch.

We'll nail him.

Thank you for coming down,

-I know how hard this must be.

This is Mr. Fogg, Mr. Vasquez.
They're investigating the fire.

Our condolences.

Y'all find out anything?

We're still trying to find
our way.

Think you might be able to help
us figure out a couple things.

Of course.

It's Stacy, right?

Now, you weren't in the house
at the time of the fire.

That's right.

She works nights sometimes,

stopped on the way home
from work.

Whereabouts was it you stopped,

I stopped at the Salvation Army
to get the babies some presents.

-At 9:00 in the morning?
-Well, Christmas is coming

-and we're broke, so...
-Of course.

How about the day before?

Anything unusual happen?

No, sir.

Hey, there.

How are my precious ladies?

Ooh, why are you crying?

They've been crying all fucking

You girls are lucky.

If your mama wasn't so pretty,
you three wouldn't be here.

Oh, you fucking stink.

What, do you think you can
just stay out all night

and then come home
and sweet-talk me?

Honey, I had a couple o' drinks.

I already got one DUI,
so I stopped at Mikey's.


Have at it.

So, that night,
you went to work?

Yeah, I work nights.
We need the money.

And you stayed at home
with the kids?

-You do that a lot?
-That's right.

I guess I'm one of them
stay-at-home dads

everybody's talking about.

There's another dinner in the
oven if you're hungry.

Who is it this time, Todd?

Who was who?

I already told you

-where I was last night.
-You ain't told me shit.

You think I'm stupid?
What the fuck is this?

Baby, you're the one that said

you don't wanna have
no more children.

Then what's it doing in your
wallet, you bastard?

I don't know.

-I thought maybe surprise sex--
-You're such a fucking liar.

I could smell the bitch on you
when you walked in this morning.

-I'm not lying to you, honey.
-Mm-hmm. You ain't worth shit

-for a husband.

I'm here every goddamn day
taking care of these kids.

Oh, yeah? And why's that?

Why are you here every goddamn
day taking care of these kids?

Because you don't have
a fucking job, that's why.

Because you are a fucking loser.

Better shut the fuck up
that shit right now--

Or what?

-I swear to God, woman.
-You hit me again? Go on.

Oh, yeah, that's right. You
can't hit me.

Because if you do,
then I can't go to work,

and I can't make you money
to go out drinking and fucking

whatever the fuck else you do.

So, Stacy went to work that
night and you just, uh,

stayed in bed?

Yes, sir.

Had a few beers, maybe?


Reckon your kids
sleep pretty sound?


And then that night?

It was morning.

I was asleep, so I thought I
was dreaming at first.

- Daddy!
-But then I realized

I could hear Amber screaming,
"Daddy! Daddy!"


Everything was full of smoke.

I couldn't see nothing
but black.

It smelled like it did

when the microwave
blowed up last month.

-Fires, lights popping.
- Daddy!


So, I made it to their room

I had to kick through
the child-proof thing.

I never felt anything
so hot in my life.

I thought I'd found Amber,
but she was gone.





I couldn't take the heat, so...

I had to get outside, catch my

That's when I hollered out

for my neighbor
to call emergency.

Can you think of why anyone
would wanna hurt your family?

No, sir.

We had three
of the prettiest babies

anybody could've asked for.

Off and on, we'd fight
and break up for a while,

but it was always the babies
that brought us back together.

Neither of us could've lived
without them kids.

Sometimes, I wish Amber
had never woke me up.

You know, Todd,
you've been in trouble before.

-Yes, sir.
-A couple of those times

when we asked you what happened,

you didn't exactly tell the
truth, isn't that so?

No, sir.

But you're telling the truth

Yes, sir.

Just as Jesus, the Lamb of God,
was taken too soon,

so too were these three

taken back to the bosom
of the Lord.

How else are we to understand

the loss of Amber, Karmen,
and Kameron.

Do you wanna stop somewhere
and maybe get...

-something to eat?
-Cameron Todd Willingham,

I don't wanna hear your voice.

And maybe never again.

-I'm hurting, too, baby--
-Did you hear a word I said?

Oh, if you're gonna start
demonizing me,

-speak to me like--
-I'll speak to you

-however I please.
-You will not either.

Baby, if we're ever gonna get
through this,

-we gotta work together on--
-Stop the car.

Stop the car,
let me out of the car.

-Why? Why, what's the matter--
-Stop the car!

-I won't stop the car--
-Stop the fucking car, Todd!

-Tell me why.
-Let me out of the car!

Stop the fucking car, Todd!

-Let me out of the car!

-Stop the fucking car!

Those were my babies!

Those were my babies
and you didn't save them!

They were my babies!

My babies, Todd!


Exit the vehicle, put your hands
up where I can see them.

Do it now!

Turn around, face away from me.

Interlace your hands
behind your head.

Do not look back.

Cameron Todd Willingham...

you're under arrest for murder.

- You come with me.

-Who did I kill?
-Come on.

We'll talk about it
at the station.

Let's go, Todd.
You know the way.

I only just buried them, Marty.

This is some fucked up bullshit.

Stand right there.

Let's go.

You're a real piece of shit,
you know that?

Your own kids?

-Jesus, man.
-I didn't do it, Marty.

Fuck you!

Hey, fuck you!

Man, would you get
the fuck down from there?

This ain't no fucking zoo!

Jesus fucking Christ.

You want a banana?
That'll make you calm down?

They ain't gonna throw you no
fucking peanuts,

you know that, right?

Who're you talking to, boy?

I was just talking
to that mullet,

you know,
she's real cute.

She gave me a little wink,
you know.

-This yours?


Get up.

Look, I'm good, man.
I was just fucking around.

You ain't gotta take shit
so personal.

You smell like you wanna be left

If you plead guilty,
you might live.

I'm not confessing
to something I didn't do.

I'll say any goddamn thing
you like,

but I will not say
I killed my own kids.

With the evidence they got,

-they're gonna--
-I'm going to take the stand

and I'm gonna talk to the judge
about it.

Idiot, they will tear you up
on the stand.

Oh, they better.

Boy, you're about as
dumb as you look--

What the fuck is wrong
with you, huh?

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.
Todd, calm down.

Oh, listen to him!

They wanna kill me? Good.

They better start
digging my grave now,

because I'll die before I say
I killed my own kids.

Boy, I am the only thing between
you and the needle right now.

No way in hell
I'm putting you on that stand.

Good morning,
Texas. This is KZYZ.

The phone lines are burning up.
Let's hear from you.

I never liked him.
I always thought there was

something kind of
off about him,

and it doesn't surprise me
a little bit.

They should fry him.

-He needs to burn in hell.
- What kind of daddy

would kill his own babies
like that?

Things like this
don't happen here.

Hey, I'll shoot him myself.

Boy took three innocent lives.

The only thing I regret is,

we can't kill him
three times over.

Members of the jury,

I'd like you to take a look

at the sweet faces
of these beautiful babies...

Karmen and Kameron,
barely a year old

and already brimming with life.

Little Amber, eagerly waiting
for Santa's visit

in only two days.

Now, I want you to imagine
these little angels...

-...burning in their beds.

This was no arson.

This was murder.

Well, I barely poked my head
out the door when...

he just stood there with
a strange look in his eyes--

-That's total bullshit.
- Shut up.

To the best of your knowledge,
did Todd Willingham

ever make an attempt
to get back in that house?

He was too worried about that
car of his.

He didn't try to save those kids
till the cops showed up.

And it was like he was...
putting on a show.

Fire talks to you,
it does not lie.

Then what did that fire
tell you?

That it was deliberately set
by human hands.

Can you be more specific?

Someone poured gasoline
through those children's room,

even under their bed
in the shape of a pentagram,

the symbol of the devil.

He kept pouring down the hallway
to the front door,

creating a fire barrier,
preventing any escape.

That fire was hotter
than the hinges of hell.

We found evidence
of what we call crazed glass,

another indication it was goosed
by liquid additive.

Worst of all, the refrigerator
was moved to block the backdoor.

Someone made that house
into a death trap.

Inspector Vasquez, how many
arson cases have you worked on?

I reckon more than 1,200 fires.

And to the best
of your knowledge,

have you ever been

Sir, fire does not destroy
evidence, it creates it.

If I've ever been wrong,
it's never been pointed out.

Mr. Horton?

No questions, Your Honor.

Mr. Webb, you shared a cell
with Todd Willingham

at the Navarro County Jail,
is that correct?

Yes, sir.

And what did he tell you
at that time?

Well, he...

He said that...

he came home
and that one of his children

was hurt or even dead
or whatever.

-And then so, he started--

He decided that he was gonna
cover it up by starting a fire.

Hell no.

Did he tell you who it was
that injured that child?

He did. He said it was his wife.


He said she was crying,

and carrying on
with such emotion.

He just decided to take some
paper and wad it up,

and then he burnt it in a way
that made it look like

them children was playing
with it and such.

And did Willingham ever threaten
you about telling anybody

-what he had told you?

He pointed his finger at me
and did like this.

I'll kill you.

-Thank you, Mr. Webb.
-Y'all need to start speaking

some fucking truth around here!

-Calm down. You just sit down.
-I am!

No, no, this is corrupt.

Don't believe that shit.

That shit never happened, Judge.

Control your client.

- That shit didn't happen.

-You took an oath, didn't you?

Start speaking some
fucking truth then, boy.

-This is my courtroom, sir.

Mr. Jackson,
call your next witness.

Mr. Evans,
you have firsthand knowledge

of Todd Willingham's history
of violent behavior, don't you?

Yes, sir.

Would you explain to us

what transpired
between the two of you?

I mean, maybe me and Stacy
was flirting a little,

but it ain't mean nothing.

Hell, Stacy, she's like that,
and Todd sort of liked it.

Wasn't no reason
to beat the crap outta me.

Sorry, Your Honor.

Beat me half to death.

But Mr. Willingham's propensity

for violence also found its way
into his home.

Busted lip, black eyes...

bruises all over her legs.

Oh, and a red mark on her
stomach where he kicked her.

Now, Mrs. King...

did she say what she believed

the cause of those beatings
to be?

Yes, sir.

Stacy was pregnant

and Todd wanted to make her
have a miscarriage.

Is Cathy King's testimony

-No, sir.
-So, Todd didn't beat you up

when he found out
you were pregnant

and tried to force you
to abort?

No, sir.

He even came with me
to the doctor

when I was pregnant
with them twins.

He was excited
it might be a boy.

So, the testimony we've heard
about the beatings,

the obscenities?

I'm not saying Todd and I
didn't fight,

but I gave him just as many
bruises as he gave me.

Is it true that the police

were called to your home
to control a situation

where Todd Willingham was

and calling you a, quote,
"Whore, bitch, and slut?"

Yeah. We was always arguing,
it didn't mean nothing.

People argue.

Despite the many occasions

that he behaved
in such a violent manner,

how can you be so sure

that he didn't commit this

Because he loved those babies.

And he loves me.

Mrs. Willingham,

are you telling us
that all of these witnesses

who have testified to your
husband's violent abuse of you

are just lying?

I don't know.

Do you have any idea why
they would lie?


Now, you were raised
by your grandmother.

Your mother was a victim
of family violence, wasn't she?


Can you tell us
what happened to her?


-Irrelevant, Your Honor.

The witness will
answer the question.

Mrs. Willingham?

She was...

I'm sorry.
Can you speak up, please?

She was killed.

By your father?


No further questions.

You don't understand,
Todd is not like that.

Todd would never do anything
to hurt those babies.

He loved those babies
with all his heart.

He treated those babies
better than anybody else did.

He would feed them
and change their diapers,

and he potty-trained them,
and you are not listening.

-The witness will step down.
-Everybody in here

making up lies, no one's paying
attention to the fact,

no one's telling the fucking

-The witness is excused.
-No one accepts the truth

or listening to anything
we're saying.

- Young lady--
-When do we get a chance

to say the truth?

- You will step down.
-I'm sorry, Todd. I'm sorry.

Mr. Horton,
call your next witness.

-Your Honor, the defense rests.
-Are we all clear

-on what was just said then?

Now, hold on a minute.

Before they started
digging up her past,

-y'all were clear on that.

This is the worst kind of crime
there is.

And there's been people
called up to this stand

to lie about me, people who
just don't like me anyway.

I just wanna make sure
I get a fair trial, Judge.

I wash my hands of this,
Your Honor.

Ain't that how this shit works?

Now, I've sat here and stayed
quiet while y'all paint

the worst possible
picture of me.

Ain't I got a right to respond,

Well done, son. Well done.

-Sit down. Sit down.
-Where are my friends?

- Mr. Jackson....
- Where are my family? your next witness.
-People who can vouch for me.

Sir, you need to calm down, sir.

The jury will disregard
what they just saw and heard.

Mr. Jackson,
proceed with your summation.

"Whosoever shall harm
one of my children,

it is better for a millstone to
be hung around his neck

and for him to be cast
into the sea."

Members of the jury,

I ask that the words
of Mark 9:42

remind you
of your responsibility...

as they remind me of mine.

Two days before Christmas,

Willingham committed the
ultimate crime.

Can there be a more
righteous case

for the imposition
of the ultimate penalty?

Now, whether capital punishment,

in this case, will deter others,
I don't know,

but I do know it will deter
Cameron Todd Willingham.

And that is what
the State of Texas

is asking you to do today.

Willingham wrote his own
death sentence

when he killed those children.

It is your duty to carry it out.

Sit down, boy.

Only been 40 minutes.

Liberation could take days.

Jury is coming in.

Has the jury panel
reached a verdict?

Yes, sir.

Would you pass it
to the bailiff?

Will the defendant rise?

By your verdict in this case,
you, the jury,

have found the defendant,
Cameron Todd Willingham,

guilty of the offense of
capital murder,

as charged in the indictment.

Cameron Todd Willingham,

by order of the State of Texas,

-you are sentenced to death.

This is Tower 4. I got eyes on
our boy on the dog run.

Hey, hey, what's up, homie?

- Fuck you, get inside
- All right, baby killer.

Now, this here is general

Get yourself a good hard look

because you ain't never
gonna see a crowd again, boy.

Hey, baby killer.

Like killing babies?
Little bitch. You--

Back up!

Oh, you're a sweet one.

You're gonna get yours,
baby killer.

That's it, all right.

The long walk to
the death chamber.

The condemned, that's you,
baby killer,

can have his family there,

at least what's left of them
in your case.


You're gonna see it again,
I promise.

-Welcome to death row.

Yeah, I know you're listening,
baby killer.

You wanna know what's coming,
you all do.

It could be days.

Shit, it could be years,
but somehow you guys

-are always so surprised.
- Your move.

It happens
just after your last meal.

You can order any damn thing
you want.

I've seen one poor guy
ask for candy.

What about you,
baby killer? What's your poison?

Oh, poison! Injection.

You get it? Get your ass
in there.

-Unhook him.
- Let's go.

First, we strap your ass
to that table,

and then one of us
puts in the IV.

Of course,
we don't always get it right.

Sometimes the fella lays there

just screaming in agony
for hours,

begging to be put out of
his misery.

What if I'm innocent?

Nobody ever done it,
baby killer.

No, it was their best friend
who done it, or...

he didn't know the gun was
loaded, or...

he was just trying to scare 'em.

But, damn, you,
you just stood there

and watched them babies burn.

Now, that's cold.

That's what I'm gonna do
for you, baby killer.

I'm gonna stay there and watch.

And when they pump that shit
inside of you...

you are gonna burn
from the inside out.



You that Willingham fella?

You the boy that
burned them babies?

Hey, we got something special
for you.

Up through there.

Hey, it's the baby killer.

-What's up, bitch?

Stop, face the wall.

You get one shower every two
days, that's it.

We got a fight
in the shower block.

- Hey, come here, boy.
- Get him.

Don't you fucking move.

You got him?
Are we good?

Let's see how
you like some alone time, boy.

Son of a bitch can bleed.

Ain't too pretty anymore.

-Make him your bitch.

Pick his ass up.

-Piece of shit.
-Come on, get up.

"I'm sorry, boss", say it.

Say it.

"I'm sorry, boss."

Say it.

What the fuck for?

Y'all are treating me worse
than a damn animal!

I wouldn't even treat my dog
like this.

Get the fuck out of here, Todd.

Go back to the bar and find

some girl to suck on your dick.

Get the fuck out of here.

Get the fuck out of here, Todd.

Who are you
cheating on me with, bitch?

Everybody in the fucking town.

-What's his name?
-The fuck up.

You fucking whore.

Come on, Todd, that's enough.

Come on, baby. I love you
so much, you know that.

See, you're not so bad.

-Come on, baby, it's okay.
-Don't you move.

Come over here, baby.
Come on.

We both fucked up and...

you fucked up too.



Help! Help me!

Y'all, take me out of here.

I promise
I won't do anything bad again.

I promise I'll be good.

Mr. Daniels, may I have a pen
and paper?

Say please.

May I have a pen and paper,

May I have a pen and paper,
please, sir?

Dear Stacy, I don't understand
why you won't come visit me.

I've had a lot of time to think
about our life together.

"It already feels like
so long ago."

Him again.
What's he want now?

Grandma, lay off.

"I have not been good.

I suppose I'm paying for that

But why sh...

Why should I be punished
for a thing I did not do?

You know I would never hurt
those babies."

You tell him to leave you be.

He was a wicked child
that became a wicked man.

And if you'd figured that out
a little sooner,

I might still be a grandmother.

If he killed anybody,
it would have been me.

You know what,

I'm gonna write a letter
to Governor Anne Richards

and tell her how much he loved
his little girls.

Well, that's just great, Stacy.

I'm gonna go write a letter
to Santa.

That's my favorite, Stacy.

Oh, yeah? What a surprise.

Who was that?

You just look real nice
this time of day.

Thank you, Todd.

Wrote you a song.

Oh, yeah?
How does it go?

-Wanna hear it?
-Sure, why not?

♪ Don't go to work

♪ Don't put on your shirt

♪ Leave it alone
That little skirt ♪

♪ Come back to bed

♪ Give a little head

♪ We can spend our whole life
Rolling in the dirt ♪

-Do you like it?
-I like some parts of it.

-Which parts of it do you like?
-Take a wild guess.

Rolling in the dirt?

Before that.

Part where you're nice
and sweet--

What are you doing, Todd?

Come on,
you're just trying to show off.

One more time, come on.

-I gotta go.
-Come on.

You're like a 12-year-old boy.

I give in.

Dear Stacy,

I don't understand why you
won't answer my letters.

I know you can never get over
what happened,

but I lost everything, too.

Not just the kids
and you and our home,

but pretty soon now, my life.

- All right, walk.
-They have given the needle

to at least one of us every
month since I've been here.

God bless you, brother.

Hang in there, bro.

We'll be praying for you.

Be strong.

I'd like to believe

that even in a terrible place
like this

there may be some good.

But all I see is cruelty
and suffering.

Everybody pretty much hates it
the same.

...And we will be raised
in pairs.

And death will be swallowed
in victory.

- Come here.
- Where's your victory?

Death, where is--
will you let me fucking walk?

-Will you let me fucking walk?
-Chill the fuck out.

Let me walk
like a fucking man.

Stand tall, bro.

Oh, God! Oh, God!

Let me fucking walk,
you bastard!

Hey, baby killer! Baby killer!

Hey, white boy.

Yo, asshole!

What's your problem, man?
I'm talking to you.

You think I'm stupid
or something, boy?


-Come again?
-If I say anything to you,

you're gonna start saying
I confess some shit,

get a reduced sentence,
fuck that!

Hey, listen good, sugar.

They get you here,
they got you good.

Confession make you feel better?

Huh, sweet thing?

All right.

I knocked over a jewelry store.

Kind of hit a leak.

Oh, God. He reached under
the counter for a piece

and I shot him in the head.

I was high.

And I am guilty, but murder one,

shit, that is manslaughter
at the most.

But this is Texas.

You know why they call
it capital punishment? Huh?

Hey, you ain't got no capital,
you get punished.

-That's right.
- Shit.

Now, don't tell me
that ain't your story too,

because I know that sorry ass,
state-appointed lawyer of yours.


ain't no different from lawyers.

There's good ones
and there's bad ones.

But you know what, poor folks
always get the bad ones.

Just like my granddaddy
always said,

everybody gets the same
amount of ice,

except rich folks get it
in the summer.

Of course, you could try to
become a cause célèbre

or some such shit.

Might even be worth some

You can get you one of them
fancy pants, white shoe boys

willing to do it for free.

By the end,

who knows if you got enough time
left to make a difference.

-Hold up.
- What?

You saying I can get me
a new lawyer with no money?

Yeah, boy.
Now, you just write up a letter

about your situation and send it
to the Texas Equal Justice

and that should do it.
That's initiative.

I-N-I-T-I-A-T-I-V to the E.

T-I-V to the E.

So, you say your previous

failed to capitalize
on numerous opportunities

to reach the prosecutions'

Or to present any viable

to their theories of your

He did a shit sorry job.

Sold you down the river.

This is your trial transcript.

And just a few books,
might be helpful.


I'm preparing
a writ of habeas corpus,

also known as "The great writ."

We're allowed to present
new evidence,

if we can find some, that is.

Do you have any, you know,
resources to help us?

Someone who'll pay
for a private investigator?

Your wife or family?

-No, sir.
-All right.

Well, we'll figure something

We need to find something
in your trial

that demonstrates negligence.

That's harder to do
once you've been convicted.

I need you to go through
the transcript

and find anything questionable.

Okay, can you do that?

I think I'll squeeze it
into my very hectic schedule.

This writ could be your last

And a slim one at that.

Hey, Metallica. I can
practically hear you reading.

Give that a rest,
let me beat you at Crazy Eights.

This is making my head hurt.

They make it that way
on purpose.

Keep out dummies
like us.

There's some crazy ass words
in here, bro.

-Contemptuous, colloquially.
- Spell that shit

-without looking.

-Did I even say it right?



Now, I'm gonna drop
some knowledge for you.

That first appeal,
it might not go nowhere.

They ain't gonna overturn

their hunting buddy's

You might have a chance
with the Fifth Circuit.

What about this Supreme Court

You kidding? If it leans
any more to the right

it'll tip over.

These books
keep talking about justice

like it's something real.

Man, there ain't
no justice in the system.

And there ain't none in this
life, either.

You know, why was I born black?


Yeah, black as hell.

And why was y'all born poor
and stupid?

Can't I be born poor and smart?

No, man,
it's a lie, bro.

What if somebody
really is innocent?

It ain't got nothing to do
with it.

Death penalty's good politics.

As a matter of fact,
in an election year,

they always kill
twice as many of us.

That's politics for your ass.

-For real?

Your candy ass politicians feel
like real men killing folks.

Take your hand, bro.

-Right on, brother.

Stay strong!

Second and five,

ball on the 38th.
Hand off to Smith...

-Come on, baby. Come on.

-Yeah, do it!

-Run! Run, boy!
-Go right there.

-Run, boy!
-That's gone, right there!


Dallas Cowboys,

And the Cowboys take the lead
for the first time.

Woo! Heck yeah!

They don't know about
that Southern ground, baby.

-Come on, let's go!
-I got you.

How about them boys?

Thanks for covering my shift.

-Yeah, you owe me, bitch.
-Oh, man.

You would've skinned my ass
alive on this Becky party.

We had a clown, a cake,
the whole nine fucking yards.

I was serving ice cream
to little princesses.

-It was pretty good.
-Get out of there, Willingham.

-Yeah, boss.
-Hurry up.

Hurrying up, boss.

I'm in a real hurry.

Real hurry to go do nothing.

You fucking listening to me,
baby burner?

-What? No--

Yes, boss, I was.

-You fucking pervert.
-Take it easy, he's on my watch.

I don't give a shit. I don't
want his sicko ears on my kids.

Look at me, why you so fucking
interested in my life, huh?

Come on, man.
Let's go.

Sunday was
my daughter's birthday, too.

I woulda killed
the motherfucker.

What are they gonna do,
put you on death row?

He's just a screw, Ponch.

Probably got picked on
at school.

Says he's got a daughter.



What's up, Ponch?


I got my date today.

They're moving me
to the observation cell.

Scared I'm gonna kill myself.

Shit, Ponch.

It is what it is.

Shit, I'm thinking...


two orders of onion rings to go
with my chicken fried steak.

Smothered in Texas pea.

One of them, you know,
strawberry milkshakes.

Shit. I'm gon' throw up all over
the damn place.

Lord, give me the courage
to take my...

No, no, no, let go off me.
Get off me, get off me!

Come on!

It's not my time yet, man!
It's not my time!

No! No!

Not yet!

Let's go, brother.
Let's go, brother.

-I can't do it. No, man.
-Yes, you can, Ponch. You can.

-No, I can't.
-Yes, you can, brother.

Stand tall now, brother.

-Let's go, Ponch.

They don't get this work.
That's two for you, baby.

- Hey, it's Ponchai!
- Ponchai James.

- It's all you, brother!
-Ponchai Ja...

Ponchai James!

He's the man!

Let's go, Ponch.

-Let's go, brother.
- Ponchai James.

-All right.
- Go, baby.

Ponchai James.

Oh, they gonna remember you,


♪ I've been around the block
A time or two ♪

♪ Done almost everything
A boy can do ♪

♪ I've done some living
Yeah, I've had fun ♪

♪ But there is one thing
That I haven't done ♪

♪ I want to know how
Forever feels... ♪


You need some help?

So, are you from around here?

Why'd you stop back there?

Oh, I didn't think you were

Figured I could take you
one on one.

You weren't scared?

-You weren't scared?

Of you? Why?

Why not?

I guess I just didn't think
about it.

Thank you so much.

Oh, thank you.

Can't you stay a moment more?

You might be just the kind
of person we're looking for.

Oh, you're scared now?

Well, I'm a little weirded out,
to tell you the truth.

-What you want from me?
-Your address.

-What for?
-I wanna send you something.

Oh, you don't need to
send me anything.

Well, I wanna return the favor.

I think you and I were intended
to meet.

So, was she, like,
a crazy person or--

Why did she want
your address?

Well, she said somebody might
wanna write me a letter.

-A prisoner.


- What?
-Just classic Liz.

-Oh, here we go.
-The abandoned kittens,

the homeless family
at the truck stop.

Oh, my God.

The starving African kids
on TV.

-Okay. Gullible, bleeding heart.
-Oh, I'm not saying that.

You called me St. Liz
for a decade.

Well, that's not what I think.

We're well past lying, George,
aren't we?

So, yesterday, I got a letter.

-Hey, Mom.
-Hey, girl, how was school?

Earth to Julie.

-Never mind.

-Love you.
-Love you, too.

And it said, "Dear Ms. Gilbert,
I got your address from TCADP.

I was told that you might be
willing to correspond

with someone such as myself."

What is that, the TAD,


Texas Coalition
to Abolish the Death Penalty.

How'd you get involved in that?

The lady who asked
for my address.

-You don't listen to me.
-No, I was listening.

-What did he do?
-Never mind.

Oh, come on, Liz
Come on.

Why is he on death row?


He burned down his house
with his kids inside.

-That's charming.

-All right. Here.

So, why exactly
are you doing this?

I didn't say I was doing it.

But you're thinking about it.

Well, can't I just not know?
I don't know.

Isn't looking after one person
with a death sentence enough?

-I'm sorry.

So, are you and the kids okay?
Money and everything.

-Well, if you need anything,

-Your check comes on time.

And we talked all that out.

-I failed you, Liz.

And yet, you're here for me.

If thing's were the other way

would I be there for you?

Do we get off that sow
or just admit the truth?

How are you...


-Mama, you forgot the milk.

-I'm going to the market later.

-Mom, what are reading there?
-Letter from a guy in jail

-who kills babies.

What, are you writing
a play about him or something?

No, sweetie, there's a man
who is in prison--

-He wants Mama to visit him.

A lot of people visit inmates,
and I'm not saying that I'm--

You know they're gonna poison
him to death, right?

-He deserves it.
-You got somewhere to be,

like, school, and maybe
clean your mess up?

Mama, I know
what the death penalty is--

I can't believe you're actually
thinking about

visiting a murderer.

-I didn't say--
-That is so gross.

I didn't say he was innocent.

-Okay, then what are you saying?
-He's a human being.

Okay, I'm late.
Dave's gonna drop me.

So, are you seeing your dad,

No, the Gremlins will be there.

Well, they are your
brother and sister.


Fine. I'll go.

All right.
Am I getting you later?

Dave's gonna drive me.

Well, will you call me,
please, miss?

Mom, I got soccer practice
till 6:00

-and I'm taking the bus.
-Okay, well I thought

-I was getting you.
- Bye.

What about oatmeal?

Death row inmates
aren't allowed to associate

with the general population.

We have no contact at all
with the outside.

No one in the whole world knows
I exist.

I feel like I'm slowly being

Please excuse my writing,

I'm learning to express myself

I've added your name
to my visitor's list

in case you
decide to come.

Meantime, I hope your
life turns forever forward.

Yours, Cameron Todd Willingham.

Hello, sir, I'm here to see
Cameron Todd Willingham.

Come, miss.

Thank you for coming,
Mrs. Gilbert.

It's really nice to meet you.

Oh, nice to meet you too,

Folks call me Todd.

Oh, yeah? Todd.

I really appreciate you
coming all this way.

-You're in Houston, right?

-How was the drive?
-Oh, it was fine.

Well, some traffic, you know,
Houston Freeway has become...


You know, you're my first
visitor in a long time.

Am I?

Well, good.

I guess. And why is that?

-I mean, your wife comes?

No, Stacy and me
ain't together no more.


I guess I understand,
it's just...

I miss her, is all.


How about your folks?

They're in Oklahoma, ma'am.

It's 200 miles each way.

And my folks is old.

And my mom's ailing, so...

They come when they can.

Well, how about you tell me

your life here,
what it's like or...

-Not much to tell, really.
-Mm, right.

Any comforts or, I don't know?

In jail?

No, ma'am.

I'm sorry, Todd.
I don't know-- I don't know...

what to ask or how to...

If I-- If I--
If I make it harder to talk.

No, ma'am. How about you?
Tell me about the outside world.

Maybe I can get out
of this place for a while.

Oh, all right, sure.

But maybe you call me Elizabeth,
because when you say ma'am,

it makes me feel like
you're talking to my mama.


Well, um... let's see.

-You married?
-Me? Divorced, actually.


Andrew and Julie.

-Boy and a girl.

-That's nice.
-Yeah, yeah.

My big girl, Amber,
she'd be 11 by now.

And Karmen and Kameron,
they'd be nine.

They was twins.

Twins? Oof!

-That's something, huh?
-Yes, ma'am.


Oh, you ever tried
diapering two at once?


Stacy used to say it was like
trying to

grab a hold of two little
greased piggies

at the state fair.

Oh, they was the most beautiful
babies in the whole world.

They're all different,
but cut from the same cloth.

Now, Kameron, she was smart.

She had, like,
a routine that she stuck to.

And if anybody disturbed it,
and she didn't like it,

she would let the whole of Texas
know about it.

Karmen, she was--
She was more like me.

And Amber, she was a great
big sister.

She went from redecorating
her sister's room to...

turning around to me one time,
and saying, "Daddy,

I love the new babies, but when
are they going home now?"

Gosh, I tell you
I wanna hear about the world

and I end up doing
all the talking.

Oh, that's fine.

Well, I'm sorry.
I guess, it's just been a while.

How long has it been?

-Eight years.

We're pretty much
at the end of the line now.

You scared, Todd?

I did not kill my own children,

I swear.

I love them more
than I love life itself.

- Time's up.

It was weird.
He was gentle and soft spoken.

Oh, that's because he wants to
get in your pants.

-You know that's true.
-That's rude.

And he was a devil worshiper
to boot!


-No, I heard it right on the TV.

He burned up those babies
as a sacrifice to Satan himself.

Seriously? Girls,
you're getting out of control.

If anybody were to come near
my babies,

I got a .38 Colt by my bedside
with their name on it.

The idea of you
with your loaded .38

makes me wanna move out
of the neighborhood.

Let's get started.

Are you gonna use some of this
for your new play, as if...

-Oh, I don't know.

Liz, wha-- What if somebody
was trying to hurt your babies?

I'd do anything.

-That's not the point.

-Of course, it is.
-It's still taking a life.

A monster
who don't deserve to live.

It's just revenge.

I mean, are we still there?
Isn't that a primitive idea?

No. It's called restitution.

Let the punishment
fit the crime.

Okay, well, you better kill
your ex-husband.

Oh, wouldn't that be great?

Liz, don't become one of those
sad women we hear about,

-who falls in love with--

I'm just saying.

Thank you so much for
your interest in my love life.

But don't worry,
even someone as desperate as me

knows that a death row romance
doesn't have a future.


Dad died.

Dear Elizabeth,

I didn't get a chance to
express my deep gratitude

for your visit.

It lifted my spirits for days.


I used to be full of hate.

Hate for the judge,
hate for the jury.

Hate for everyone
who mistreated

me and wanted me dead.

I guess after all this time,

the hate just kinda
burned out of me.

I've been working hard
on my case and...

it's funny,

I'm no longer the same dumb

who lost his place
in the world...

and have achieved more learning
within these walls

than I ever did in school.

I can remember every word
of our conversation.

You're the kind of person
I never had the chance to meet.

An artist,

filled with intellectual ideas,
and worldly wisdom.

"For me, it was more than
a connection to a world.

It brought my heart to laugh,

and created an omni-potent glow
around my being."

Sounds like he's prepping
for the SATs.

Mm-hmm. Well, first of all,
it's omnipotent.

And secondly, maybe he's just
trying to improve himself.

I mean, there's other people we
know who might wanna, like,

-study for the SATs.
-I'm studying!

You wanna visit him again?

Is this like a... a thing?

I might.


I don't know, honey.

You know, when you just wanna
do something...


somebody who's feeling...

so much, you know?

I don't know what I'm saying.
Am I making any sense?


not really.

I cannot believe you came back.

I sure did.

Look at you.

So pretty.

You don't have to say that,

Are you kidding me?

Look at your hair, your eyes,
your dress, everything's just...

mm-mm, singin' to me.


Stand up for me.
Just give me a twirl.

-Come on, now. Just once.

Now, come on.


How you been?

Liz, last time you came,

I was the one
who did all the talking.

How are the kids?
Julie and Andrew, right?


They're okay.

Hmm. I told you their ages?


-Um, Julie is 17.

Super smart.

She's a great kid, but...

she's a pain in my butt

-Oh, my Lord.

Well, you wouldn't wanna know me
when I was 17.

-Believe me. Uh-uh.
-Oh, no kidding?

-And Andrew?
-Best freckles known to man.

-Is he breaking hearts?
-On the cusp.

They get to see their daddy

What's wrong?

Their dad died
a couple of weeks ago.

Oh, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to hear
about your loss.

I guess, we both know what it is
to lose something now.

I wrote a poem about my babies.
It's pretty bad.

You wanna hear it?

Sure, of course.

It's bad.

"I know their beauty flows
deep within.

And all that's broken
their love will mend.

This beauty of theirs
is so unique.

It's much more valuable
than priceless antiques."


-Fucking terrible, huh?

It's terrible.

All sections,
call count, five minutes,

clear your ranks,
clear the cages.

You're a Cowboys fan, right?


You think Aikman and Irving
have still got it?

You almost done?
It's fucking freezing out here.

Figured out why
you're always pissed.

Yeah, why's that?

Because you're a prisoner here,
too, like me.

You ain't bottom of the pile.

You ain't top of the pile,

You're just kinda
middle of the pile.

-Now, in order to feel like

you're going somewhere
in the world,

you got to stand on
the likes of me.

But don't really get you

you just kinda stay
in the middle.


You my fucking therapist now?

I just got a lot of time
on my hands is all.

You ever read
Man's Search for Meaning?

I was absent that day.

It's by Viktor E. Frankl.

-Yeah, the guy basically says...

"To live is to suffer.

And to survive, you got to find
meaning in the suffering."

I made a promise to my daughter.

She visits me sometimes.

You got a daughter too, right?

What's her name again?


Let's go inside.

No need to cuff your bitch ass.

Are you sure?
I'm feeling dangerous, brother.

-Yeah, you ain't got shit.

How you been?


Been doing much?

This is you.

Don't really look like you,
though, huh?

I might have to give her
a haircut.

Are you seeing your sisters?

They good?

Are you mad at me?

Are you mad at me?

You still see them?

Yeah, you taking care of them?


You gonna tell them
you saw Daddy?

You gonna tell them I'm sorry?

You know I didn't do it,
don't you?

Well, Todd,

you want to hear
about my life, so here goes.

You probably didn't want this
much detail,

but you did say
you wanted to know everything.

Mornings are tough.


Teenagers think
they can stay up all night.

Then they seemed

surprised when they have
to wake up for school.

I probably coddle
them too much,

but that's my
right as a mother.

Well, it's just me now.

I guess I want them to know
I'm there for them.

Hey, hey, didn't you need me
to sign

that signature page
for you?

But I tell you...

sometimes that hour between

6:00 and 7:00 in the morning

feels about five minutes long.

-Lunch. Is that enough, though?

-Give me a hug.
-Bye, Mama. Love you.

Love you.

-Love you.
-Bye, now. Eat today.

Most days I try to write.
Recently, not so much.

As good as my life is...

I can't help think
of all the plans I had

that never happened.

I know that sounds spoiled
to someone in your situation.

But you said
you want the truth.

Dear Elizabeth,
I cannot thank you enough

for sharing your thoughts
and feelings with me.

I never really looked deeply
into myself

before we started writing...

Dear Todd,
I got your drawing.

That is so beautiful.

You say you wanna know
what my life is like.

Well, try staying in your
kitchen for an entire day.

Then think about
what it'd be like

to be there
for the rest of your life.

Regular prisoners talk
about doing time,

but on the row,
there is no time.

The clock stopped moving
the minute we were sentenced.

People say
we should all live life

like it could be taken away
at any moment.

Death catches most people

You're asleep, or your body
shuts down,

or an accident happens,

but to live every moment,

knowing that they could decide
to kill you at any moment...

can't help picturing
the dents on the door

where others have kicked
and fought as they went in.

Are you sure you want this one?

It's kind of a snooze, and jury
was only out for an hour.

I got some better ones.

-Just this one, please.
-All right.

-Thanks, sir.
-You're welcome. Next.


He wanted to get in so bad,

he broke the windows
with a tire iron,

but the fire just blew that
glass back at him.

I've never seen a man
cry so hard.

He didn't try to save those
kids until the cops showed up.

And it was like
he was putting on a show.

Don't surprise me,
he started that fire.

This so-called art

hung above
Todd Willingham's bed.

Dr. Grigson,
what can you tell us about it?

In my experience, such images
of death and violence

are often associated
with cultive type activities.

It is my conclusion
that Todd Willingham

is a severe sociopath
with violent tendencies.

Is it true
that the police were called

to your home
to control a situation

where Todd Willingham was

and calling you a
"whore, bitch, and slut"?

Todd would do never do anything
to hurt those babies.

He loved those babies
with all his heart.

He treated those babies
better than anybody else did.

Mr. Horton?

No questions, Your Honor.

Thank you for seeing me,
Mr. Horton.

Well, you can thank my girl,

-She told me I had to see you,

so you would stop pestering her.

Oh, well, I just wanted to get
your thoughts

on Todd Willingham.

So, you knew him before?

Oh, yeah.

I guess everybody in town
knew him, huh?

Cross the street to stay out
of the way is more like it.

Nothing but trouble, that boy.

Tell you a little story.

Night after
Todd's children died,

the whole town had a gathering
to raise money

for their funeral.

He acted like
he'd just won the lottery.

-Drinking, playing darts.

Playing and whooping it up.

And just because someone acts

doesn't mean they're a murderer,
though, right?

You're right.

What's inappropriate
is taking his part.

Now, you seem like an educated

He had the motive, he had the
means, the science backed it up.

What makes you so cock-sure
he's innocent?

Honestly, I don't know
if he's innocent or not.

The question is,
did he get a fair trial?

Let me guess.

You've seen Todd
and he charmed you.

He was quite the ladies' man
back in Corsicana.

I wouldn't know anything
about that.

But what I do know,
is that you failed

to challenge witnesses
that changed their story.

You failed to reach out
to Todd's friends.

You failed to find
a single scientific expert.

I am sorry, sir, but...
it seems like you barely tried

to create reasonable doubt
in the jury's minds.

Where did you get your law
degree, missy?

State didn't give me
enough money

to feed these horses
to defend that boy.

-But I did the best I could.

Yeah. And regardless
of your estimation

of my professional abilities,

the fact remains,

that boy is a monster,
and he will die.

Worry about the living,
Ms. Gilbert.

Yeah, well, maybe,
you should do the same.

We clearly have enough

to file an appeal
with the Fifth Circuit.

Now, I'm sorry, sir,

but this Horton seems like
a complete loser.

I mean, he decided
Todd was guilty from the get-go.

Yeah, granted Todd's trial
was a horror show,

but it doesn't mean
he's innocent.

But, then,
what about his appeal?

Ms. Gilbert,
I appreciate your zeal.

I worked this case for six
years, and got nowhere.

There's so many others that
needed my help who I can help.

-But, then, what if--
-They denied him habeas corpus.

You're asking the state
to reopen a case

based on character witnesses,

when the primary factor
in this conviction

was the arson investigation.

Now, I have to agree with
the experts here, Ms. Gilbert.

Fire does not lie.

Look, you've been kind to him,
and I admire that.

A personal involvement
can blind you to the truth.

I've been there.

Just don't let your emotions
get the better of you.

My emotions? What?
'Cause I'm a woman?

That's not what I meant.

Well, then,
why don't you enlighten me?

Have sympathy for the man
he's become,

don't forget about
the man he was.

Great. I'mma go
finish your job for you.

Hold on a sec.

Look, I'm sorry.
I don't mean to be rude,

but it's just, it's been a long
road for me on this one,

and I got to let it
go at some point.

But you know what?

I've been reading this one file.

This Johnny Webb character,
and his testimony

seems like a complete lie.

I mean, is there a way we can
get to him?



Hey, how's it going?

Are you from one of those
church groups?

No, uh, Judge Powell called you,


Yeah, I've been...

talking to some people
about Todd Willingham.

Sounds familiar.

Yeah, you, talked to the court

about how he confessed to you...

about starting a fire
that killed his daughters.

Right. Yeah, now I remember.

It was sad. Real sad.

Yeah, I've been reading
your testimony, carefully.

Just wondering how all that

It's a long time ago, you know.

Yeah, I can't remember
last week.

But it sure would help

if there's anything
you could tell me.

Well... Uh...

I was just sitting in my cell.

You know? And... And this guy
gets put in with me.

He's talking for a while and...

he confessed to me right there.

-That's about it.
-Just like that?

You felt like you knew
Todd well, or...

Like I said,
we shared a cell, so, you know.

Why do you think
he confessed to you?

I guess he just needed to tell

You know? Sometimes
a stranger's good for that.

How's that work?

When you testify
in somebody else's case,

they, um... give you
a reduced sentence or...

did things change?

You're a welder, huh?

-Guess so.
-My dad, too.

Is that what you wanted to do?

Underwater welder, actually.

-The coolest job.

-Is that what you are now?
-I wish.

I took a course, though,
been studying and shit,

you know, I took it down in--

Don't tell me, Houston?

-Houston. Yeah.
-At The Ocean Corporation?

Yeah, damn right.
They got everything in there.

-It's expensive.
-Yeah, you ain't kidding.

-That's far from here, too.
-Yeah, you know.

-Drove my truck, though.
-This one?

-Yeah, yeah, that's my baby.
-Now, that is-- That's sweet.

Almost got it new, too.

Why are you asking me about all

How did you pay for this?

Oh! I know what I wanted to
ask you.

Did Jackson,
the district attorney...

did he promise you
a reduced sentence

for that little story
you told?

-I don't know. I--
-Did he do that to you?

-I don't know.
-Like promise

to take care of you?

They do that?

You know, I don't wanna
talk no more, so...

I'm sorry, Johnny, but...
was that the deal?

Yeah, but I ain't supposed
to talk about this stuff, so--

Who told you not to talk about
it, the district attorney

is asking you not to talk,
and they're using you--

It's time for you to leave,

Listen to me, they are gonna
kill an innocent person.

And then you have to
live with it?

-I'm done here!
-They're gonna kill

an innocent man
and you have to live with it?

You know, I got a gun.

-All right. We're just talking.
-I'm done talking.

Okay. All right, I'm not a cop.

-Get the fuck outta here then!

You could help.


He threatened you?

That stupid motherfucker,
he threatened you?

Mm-hmm. Listen to me,
his story stinks. You know why?

That guy's a snitch.

I think the DA paid somebody
to pay him off.

-He took a bribe?

Oh, he's a spineless
piece of shit.

But do you understand
what that means?

We got a snitch,
a gas can that was never found

-and Stacy's testimony.

Look at all this evidence.

Reeve says there's no problem.
We've got plenty to go.

File an appeal
with the Fifth Circuit.

Fifth Circuit. I already spent
five of my appeals, Liz.

-I only got one more left.
-But you got one more left.

It's gonna go the same way
as all the others.

Todd, you've got one more.

Do you think life is fair, Liz?

Hell no.

Do you think God
is all right with that?

I don't think we know what His
plan is.

I don't even try
to begin to imagine.

I wanna live.

That's why we're not gonna give
up for one second.


So, life isn't fair.

What are we gonna do with that?

I mean, maybe this, right now...

is the best we get.

Us being here for each other.

Knowing how wrong it all this.

Maybe this is the God part.

All of us down here
trying to figure it all out.

That's beautiful, baby.

Is this our house?

Is that Mommy? Is she crying?

She crying because I was
mean to her?

Is this Daddy?

Daddy was bad, huh?

I'm sorry, baby.

The doctor who testified that
Todd was a sociopath

never even met him.

That seems unfair.



They bring him in
whenever they want

a guaranteed death penalty.

His nickname is Dr. Death.

-Dr. Death?

He was expelled

from the American
Psychiatric Association

"for making diagnosis
without meeting defendants."

This is why you read everything.

I swear I'm gonna cook for you
tomorrow night.

-That is just pitiful.
-I like cold pizza.

I do, too, but at least
put it on a plate.

Hey, you. Juls, did a Dr. Hurst
call when I was out?

Nope. Bye.

-Where you headed?

With Dave?

You mean you actually know
his name?




I know how amazing it must be

being pen pals
with a murderer...

but it's like you think

you're some kind of hero
or something.

Do you even know that Andrew

is crying himself to sleep
at night

because he misses Daddy?

You have no idea
what's going on around here.

I do.

You don't.

That's just not true.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry, sweet pea.

Dallas is now inside the field

goal range on the Arizona 37,

second down and eight.

Cowboys come
out of the shotgun.

There's a snap.

Cardinals coming
with the blitz,

Huntington scrambling left.

-It's picked off again.
-Come on.

This time by Adrian Wilson.

What kind of lame-ass excuse
for a quarterback

throws three interceptions
in the first quarter?

Hey, Willingham?
Cowboys suck.

-Hey, shut the fuck up.
-Whoever thought the Cowboys

wouldn't make the playoffs

-three years in a goddamn row.

It sucks.


Well, first of all,
we are talking

about a man's life.

So, now, you're spearheading
an effort

to prove Todd's innocence?

Well, I wouldn't say

but I am helping
his lawyer.

Todd's trial was
a complete travesty.

What a great ball game...

Hey, Willingham. They're talking
about you on the radio.

Hey, Todd,
change the station, man.

Which frequency are we on?

It's 1060.

...knew that I was going to

supposedly meet
a killer, but...

I found myself talking
to a vulnerable, sensitive man.

He was very easy to talk to.

How do you expect to change
people's minds

who know of Todd's past,

that he beat his wife in front
of multiple witnesses but--

I mean, have you
ever been cruel to someone

in your life?
That make you a murderer?


Uh, it was very clear
that witness testimony

changed from the time
they talked to the police,

to the time they were
in a courtroom.

There's new DNA
evidence in this case.

There may be new fire evidence.

There are more questions
to answer here.

what you're telling me is

you believe that
Todd is innocent?

Yes, I am.

I believe the State of Texas

is about to kill
an innocent man.

Would you wanna
kill an innocent man?

There is more than enough

for Todd to be
granted an appeal.

If there's any question...

-...evidence or any...

Your date's been set.

February 17th.

Now I feel excited.

I read something on somebody
who's supposed to be, like,

the world expert on fires.
His name's Hurst.

I've got a message to him

and found out
he lives in Austin.

And I just feel like
that's what we need.

You know, we need an expert
who can come in

and challenge this absurdity.

Liz, I'm not here to be saved.

-Well, I'm not--
-I'm not a character

in one of your fucking plays
or a pretend boyfriend,

or someone here to percolate
some excitement

in your otherwise boring,
ex-fucking housewife life.

I am here to die.

These are my last days, Liz,
not yours.

And I don't need them filled up
with your false hope.

Now, I am grateful for all
the faith you've had in me.

All the work, everything,

but it don't matter
what truth you find now.

It ain't gonna make
no difference.

I lied, Liz.

I lied to you.

I lied to everybody.

I said I went in straight
to the girls' room, which I did.

Crawled over to them,
burning shit falling on me

and smoke everywhere,
everything was on fire.

I tried to get in,
but I couldn't

'cause it was too hot.


I already knew that they...

I was too afraid to...

I was too afraid to see my own
kids burning to death.

I wanted to go back in,
but I couldn't

'cause I was too afraid.

So I am guilty.

Any man who can't save his own
kids don't deserve to live.

He wants to stop.

Maybe he's right.
Maybe we're just torturing him.

I mean, what chance have we got

Doesn't matter. How many

You think this is just about

System doesn't work,
it's broken.

How many others out there
you think been fucked over?


For a while there,
we was crazy in love.

And then we got married
after the twins was born and...

I thought that meant
he really loved me, but...

now I think he was just doing it
for them.

Well, Stacy, if there's anything
you can remember

that we could use to save him...

this is it.

They're about to kill him.

I know that, yeah.

Please help us.

My brother, he's police.

He says, Todd gets off,
they're gonna come after me

and persecute me and Todd's
gonna help them do it.

I don't wanna go to jail
instead of him.

That's crazy.

Todd loves you.

He talks about you all the time.
You need to go see him.

Mm-mm. I can't do that.

Stacy, he was the father
of your babies.

And he's changed.
Please, just go see him.

-Hey, honey.
-Oh, hey, Mom.

Hey, a doctor left you
a message.

-Doctor Hu--

-Oh, my God.

Wait. Mom, is everything okay?

Yeah, buddy,
not that kind of doctor.

-All right.
-Have a great day.

-All right.

We're so grateful
that you're willing to dive in

like this. I mean--

What's your sign?

-Excuse me?
-Under what sign

of the zodiac were you born?

-And your horoscope,

do you read it?

-Sometimes, I guess.
-Sometimes it's right

-and sometimes it's wrong.
-Well, all that stuff is just...

People have always been

by the stars, they chartered
their movements.

They could tell you
when Mercury was retrograde

or when Mars was aligned
with Venus.

They made predictions
based on these observations.

These people were called

They were the experts
on the solar system.

Until the science of astronomy
came along

and proved their ideas
to be nothing but bullpucky.

I've studied the report
their experts wrote.

Follow me.

-Move your feet.

What do you see?


-Exactly. No burn signature.

And no such thing
as crazed glass either.

The spider pattern happens...

when it's hit by cold water
from the fire hoses.


I spent two days going over
every detail of this case.

Thing about investigators
is they tend to find

what they're looking for,
even if it isn't there.

They'd already decided
Todd was guilty

before they walked
into that house.

They were so sure it was arson,

they didn't even bother to
check the space heater.

Whoever installed
the electrical wiring

had never even heard
of a Safety Code.

- Girls?
- Those flames

ran up the ceiling

burning the walls,
before moving their way down.


The fire was
what we call a flashover.

Instant combustion
of everything flammable.

The V pattern the experts

also a signature of a

The accelerant on the porch.

Charcoal grill
and lighter fluid

the expert somehow neglected
to mention.

My babies are burning up!

And the refrigerator
that blocked the back door?

Linoleum underneath is

It was always there,
never been moved.

My report is based on hundreds
of hours of experiments

by the most rigorous scientists
in the field,

these so-called experts
of theirs

may have seen lots of fires,

but in the end,
they're just astrologers.

-Thank you, Mr. Hurst.
-Thank you so much.

There's also just one more thing

-that we have to...
-What we owe you.

I don't believe in astrology,
Ms. Gilbert,

but I do believe in karma.

Mine can use all the help it can
get. The pleasure's mine.

Todd, we got Hurst.
Listen to me.

We got to Hurst.
We got to him.

He said there's no way
that fire was arson.

You know what that means?

If there's no arson,
there's no crime.

-Can you believe it?
-No, I can't.

-Oh, my God.
-It's just like

I've been saying the whole time.

Well, Reeves is on his way
to Parole Board right now.

He said there's no way
they won't regard this

as exculpatory evidence.

Todd, we have a real chance.

Oh, I don't know, Liz.

I'm not fixing to start
hoping again.

Hope is bad.

I got 10 days left.

If I start hoping again,
them 10 days is gonna go by

-just like that.
-I understand, but I'm hoping.

You know what I was ruminating
on just now

while I was waiting
for you?

-After all them terrible things

I said to you,
I thought you'd given up on me.




I need to get this copy
of Hurst's report

over to the Board
of Pardons and Paroles.

All right?

Second thought, got this.
Thank you. Sorry.

-Hi, Cindy.
-Hi, Skip.

I was wondering
if you can get this out ASAP?

-Sure thing.
-Thanks so much.

-You have a good one.
-You too.

This fax just came in
from the Parole Board, sir.

How can they deny it without
reading it?

No need-- No, no, no.

It's a new interpretation
of existing evidence

using scientific methods
that weren't available then.

That constitutes new evidence.

How could they not even meet?

It-- Hello? Hello?

Irene, I want a--
I want a draft in appeal

for a 30-day stay of execution.

You don't have to shout.
There's an intercom, you know.

And find out how late
the governor's office is open.



Thanks for coming.

How you been?


You look good.

-No, I don't.
-Yeah, you do.

Them eyes, now.

You been wanting me to come here
all these years,

what's on your mind?

Ms. Gilbert says my only chance

is stay of execution
from the Governor.

I just need a statement
from you.

I don't think that

-I can do that, Todd.
-Why not?

You know I already wrote
a letter

to Governor Ann Richards

trying to defend you,
she didn't respond.

You just gotta go
to Governor Perry.

I don't get my pardon.

I've been the only one
defending you

-this whole time.
-What's stopping you now then?

A lot of things.
Grandma. Do you have any idea

how many people
don't want me to do that?

Well, there's only you.

I just don't think that
I can do that.

-Why'd you come here then?
-We were married,

-weren't we? I figured I should.
-That ain't the reason.

I think you feel guilty you
never helped me with my case.

-Hold on a second.
-Where'd all that money go, huh?

-All the insurance money

I could've used
to get me a lawyer?

To me trying to survive

-and rebuild my life.
-To you?

Making your hair look nice?

-Them nails look expensive.
-Yeah. That's where it went.

Making yourself look pretty
around town.

-While you cut me off.

-Fucked all kinds of idiots.
-Oh, you should talk.

Do you have any idea
the stories I have to sit

and listen to, all the girls
wanna brag about

fucking a guy
on death row?

It's all true.

-It's all true.
-Yeah, I know.

-They all fuck the baby killer.
-Wow. You haven't changed a bit.

How the fuck would you know?

How the fuck would you know,

Because I know you,
Todd Willingham.

Twelve years, bitch.

Twelve years it's taken you
to pluck up the courage

to come see me.

Why didn't you
come see me once?

Because they told me
that you killed my babies!

Hey, that's enough.

But you know I didn't.

You know I wouldn't hurt them
kids, Stacy. You know.

I spent 12 years thinking about
it now. I remember everything.

I remember everything, Stacy.
And I'm sorry, I apologize

if I ever hurt you,
but I loved you, Stacy.

-Todd, please, stop it.
-I loved you.

Now, we made three beautiful

-They're gone--
-No, please stop.

...and I am paying for it now.

But I'm just asking this one
thing now, please.


-I'm begging you.
-Oh, God.

-Just this one thing, please.
-I'm sorry, I got to go.



They're moving you closer
to the chamber.

-You're done, fucker.
-Mind the wind, brother.

Go gently, my friend.

Keep your head up, Todd.

- Be strong, brother.
- Be strong.

Hey, you remember that
Hail Mary?

Roger Staubach through
in the playoffs

against the Vikings
in '75?

Yes, sir.

Come on.

Down 14-10...

24 seconds left.

He just rears back...

and lets that baby fly.

And somehow, it bounces off
the defensive halfback...

and right into the hand
of Drew Pearson...

touchdown Cowboys.


It's what you need, brother.

A Hail Mary.

I wish I could throw it for you.

...thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners, now...

and at the hour of our death.

For Todd Willingham scheduled
to be executed

in just five days.

This marks the end
of a 12-year-old...

Hey, you got a pen and paper,
or something?

Here you go.

...Todd Willingham's fate.

This is a town of good
and simple people.

To whom it may concern.

My name is Johnny Webb.

I was forced to testify against
Mr. Willingham by

the district attorney's office
and other officials.

I'm given no other choice,

but to recant my testimony
at this time.

Mr. Willingham is innocent
of all charges.

They're gonna take Daddy
away now, honey.

I don't know.
They just say it's my time.

I'm gonna miss you too.

I'm gonna really miss you.

That day in the fire, if I...

If I could've just saved you.


Come on, honey.

It'll be okay.

Just let your brother do
all the talking.

Ms. Kuykendall, what do you have
to share with us?

Can you tell us what happened?

Can you tell us
what happened, please?

What would you like to share?

Regardless of what's been said
in the past,

I have here my affidavit.

It says Todd confessed to her
when she visited him in prison.

Texas is doing the right thing

making that monster pay for
what he did.

Come on.
That's all we have to say.

You know her granddaddy took out
an insurance policy on the kids?

Cashed it right after the fire.

She's terrified.

They're all running scared
after this Hurst report.

I asked my mom and dad
not to come.

It would be too much for them.


You know, the report's on
the Governor's desk right now.

Governor Perry?


I'm getting scared now, Liz.

Not about dying.

They said it's gonna hurt,
they say it hurts so much.

You're gonna be there, right?



I don't wanna die alone.

Mama, are you okay?

They're gonna kill him tomorrow.

I failed.


I let him down.
If I had found Hurst sooner...

No, Mama.
No, Mama, you didn't.

You did so much for him.

I guess I thought
the right thing would win.

I thought the right thing
would win.

I'm sorry.

-I'm so, so sorry.
-No, I'm sorry.

That you had to learn such
a shitty truth about the world.


Paul, I am telling you
the Governor has not read this.

Because it's proof.

Just please find somebody
who will make him read it.

- Yo!
- Yeah?

How long?

Hour and a half maybe.

Ain't nobody called?

I'm sorry, brother.

I'm definitely expecting
a phone call, boss.

-I know.
-Elizabeth Gilbert,

you let me know
the second she calls, right?

I promise.

You all right?

Yeah, I know.


She's critical, but stable.

We're confident
she'll pull through.

her neck is broken.

We're not sure if she'll ever be
able to walk again.

They're taking her into surgery


It's time.

Come on, now, get up.

All right. Let's do it.

Are you ready? One, two, three.





She don't have to be here,
does she?

-It doesn't matter, brother.
-My ex-wife.

I can't do that.

I hope you rot in hell,
you bitch!

You have any final words, son?

Yes, sir.

I am an innocent man.

Convicted of unspeakably heinous
crime, which I did not commit.

Twelve years
I've been wrongly persecuted...

despite me
maintaining my innocence.

It is my dying wish
that my body be cremated.

And then my ashes spread across
my daughter's graves.

From God's dust I came...

now, to God's dust
I judiciously return.

Then the earth shall be
my throne.

All right then, y'all.

Thank you.

Hey, groovy lady.

I'm wondering where you are.

I guess something big
must have come up.

When you read this,
I'll be gone,

but I wanted to tell you
about this dream I had.

Me and my girls are out
for a walk or some such.

-Can you get me one?
-No, not that one.

I don't want that one.
Get me-- Get me this one.

-I got two.

It was one of those cool,
fall days.

Football weather
my daddy used to call it.

You got that for me?

Today was the last day,
yesterday was the last day,

today we're doing it, this week,
next week...

Funny thing is,
you were there too.

Out for a walk, I guess.


I suppose there's lots
of reasons

to feel sorry for myself.

My greatest regret
is not being allowed

to be buried beside my girls.

But thanks to you,
I have tried to make my peace.

You showed me that love
is always there

if you just
open yourself to it.

You helped me to learn to enjoy
the simple blessings

of being alive.

I only wish I had something
to give you in return.

Besides my love, always.

Yours truly, Todd.

Okay. Let's go.

Governor Perry,
question about Texas.

Your State has executed
234 death row inmates,

more than any other governor
in modern times.

-Have you--

Have you struggled
to sleep at night

with the idea that
any one of those

might have been innocent?

No, sir, I've never struggled
with that at all.

The State of Texas
has a very thoughtful,

a very clear...

process in place
of which when someone commits

the most heinous of crimes
against our citizens,

they get a fair hearing, they go
through an appellate process.

They go up to the Supreme Court
of United States

if that's required,

but in the State of Texas,
if you come in to our state,

and you kill
one of our children,

you kill a police officer,

you're involved with
another crime

and you kill
one of our citizens,

you will face the ultimate
justice in the State of Texas.

And that is
you will be executed.

What do you make of--