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Lowell Thompson, Navarro County District Attorney, was honored by his peers at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association conference last week in Corpus Christi with the Lone Star Award for his work on the Willingham case.
In fall 2010, the Innocence Project sought a hearing that would declare Cameron Todd Willingham innocent six years after his execution. By opposing it, Thompson was able to make the judge involved and the New York advocacy group, abide by state law.
“The Lone Star Award recognizes prosecutors who have best demonstrated excellence in the direct representation of the people of Texas during the preceding 12 months. The award identifies and commends Texas prosecutors who have distinguished themselves and the profession through exemplary work in cases of public interest,” stated Sarah Wolf with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
“Lowell Thompson was honored by the community of prosecutors for his willingness to stand up for the rule of law. When a district court judge in Austin convened what was widely viewed in the legal community as an illegal ‘court of inquiry’ related to the much-publicized Willingham case, Mr. Thompson decided to appear at the Austin proceedings to represent the State and ask that the law relevant to courts of inquiry be observed. Even after the district judge refused to allow Mr. Thompson to be heard as the attorney for the State, Mr. Thompson pressed the Third Court of Appeals to compel the district judge to follow the law. The Court of Appeals quickly agreed with Mr. Thompson and ordered the judge to follow the law,” Wolf explained in a press release.
Cameron Todd Willingham was a Corsicana man who convicted in 1992 for setting his house on fire and killing his three daughters. He was executed in 2004 for his crimes. The Innocence Project opposes the death penalty and has taken Willingham as an example of an execution that shouldn’t have taken place.
No one was expected to appear for the September 2010 hearing before Judge Charlie Baird in Austin, but Thompson did show up with a motion asking the judge to recuse himself for conflict of interest. When the judge tried to steamroll the case forward anyway, Thompson took it to the Third Court of Appeals and had the illegal proceedings stopped.
“My colleagues are under the impression that had I not gone down there it would have just gone unchecked, something that wasn’t a valid court hearing in Texas,” Thompson said. “It would have been extremely misleading to public in general about what could, or did happen.
“I was proud I got the award. They don’t give those out lightly,” Thompson said. “I was surprised and honored.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com