Program Note: Watch Randi Kaye's full report – including her interview with David Martin tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
Randi Kaye| BIO
I came to Texas this week to look deeper into a story I’ve been covering for a few years now for AC360°.
It’s the story of Cameron Todd Willingham, a father of three who was executed in February 2004 for setting a fire that killed his three daughters. But what if he didn’t set it? What if he just got a lame defense? Is it possible?
We wanted to know why he was convicted of “arson homicide” even though since the trial nine leading arson experts have said the fire showed no evidence of arson. So why was he executed?
We went straight to one of Willingham’s defense attorneys, David Martin, for some answers. We met at his Waco office, hours away from where the fire took place in the tiny town of Corsicana. Martin’s office was true Texas. It felt more like a ranch than a law office. We sat down in a couple of over-sized chairs (everything is bigger in Texas, you know) and talked about the case.
I asked Martin how it was possible that the prosecution put two experts on the stand who said the fire was arson, and yet Martin didn’t put anyone on the stand to refute their arguments. Why no expert to say the fire wasn’t arson in Willingham’s defense?
Martin told me, “We couldn’t find one that said it wasn’t arson.”
CNN's Mike M. Ahlers reported earlier today the story of the flight from San Diego, California, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, that overshot its destination airport by about 150 miles Wednesday. Federal investigators are now looking into whether the pilots had become distracted, as they claimed, or perhaps fallen asleep.
Air traffic controllers lost radio communication with the Northwest Airlines Airbus A320, carrying 147 passengers and an unknown number of crew, when it was flying at 37,000 feet, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
An newly released affidavit shows that the balloon boy's mom has confessed to police that the entire incident was a hoax. Plus, a supporter of self-help guru James Arthur Ray speaks out. Hear why she supports the man under investigation after three deaths at his sweat lodge ceremony.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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Wondering how frequently aviation accidents occur in the U.S. every year? Check out this preliminary monthly summary of U.S. civil aviation accidents by the National Transportation Safety Board.
David Gergen | BIO
CNN Senior Political Analyst
President Obama and a Democratic Congress may be on the verge of passing various legislative initiatives that in ordinary times would likely be hailed as historic milestones. But will they be bold enough to meet the tests of the extraordinary times in which we live?
Consider the reform of health insurance that Congress is likely to pass before Christmas. By any normal measure, the President’s signature on such a bill would be an event of enormous significance. After all, seven other Presidents have tried to provide universal insurance coverage to the public; Barack Obama may well be the first to succeed. Some argue that it may be the most important social legislation since the Great Depression.
Yet experts who understand health care would argue that it will probably accomplish only half of what needs to be done. This is of concern since, as the saying goes, it doesn't work to leap a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot jumps. It is worth remembering that the President himself has frequently declared that we face two huge challenges in health care: providing universal coverage AND bringing down the spiraling costs of care. Sadly, the bill that is shaping up will do precious little to “bend the curve” of health costs.
Massachusetts is often cited as a model of the health reform that Democrats are seeking this year: the law it passed a few years ago has indeed brought universal coverage (only 3 percent of the state’s population is no longer covered) but it has failed to bring down costs, and premiums in Massachusetts are the highest in the country.
Craig Beyler was ready to testify before a committee reviewing the investigation that led to the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. Writing a report titled "Analysis of the Fire Investigation Methods and Procedures Used in the Criminal Arson Cases Against Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham" Beyler wrote that the investigators handling the case "had poor understandings of fire science" and that "a finding of arson could not be sustained" based on the way the investigation team had conducted itself. A scathing report in an investigation that had already been called under question.
But then 48 hours before Beyler was scheduled to be heard, Texas Governor Rick Perry removed the head of the review commission and three other panel members canceling the commission's review and Beyler's testimony. The commission has not since reconvened.
Federal investigators are trying to figure out why the pilot and first captain of Northwest Airlines Flight 188 flew 150 miles past their destination Wednesday night.
The pilot told controllers he was distracted.
Distracted for one hour and 18 minutes? Distracted enough to fly past the destination of Minneapolis and then have to make a u-turn? The answer to both questions is yes.
Though, it's unclear exactly what the distraction was in the cockpit.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the pilots didn't respond to air traffic control starting at 7:56 p.m. Eastern Time when they were at 37,000 feet and they stayed silent for 78 minutes.
It gets more mysterious. When the pilot finally answered traffic control his answers were so vague that controllers feared the plane had been hijacked. Fighter jets were ready to take-off in Madison, Wisconsin, but the order never came since the pilots eventually broke their silence.
The 100 plus passengers on board had no idea of the cockpit drama going on. Tonight on 360°, you'll hear from a passenger who talks about what they were told in flight. We'll also tell you why the cockpit voice recorder may not offer many clues.
Also tonight, hear from the defense attorney for Cameron Todd Willingham who was executed in Texas for killing his three children in a fire. But more than half a dozen forensic scientists believe the evidence shows it wasn't arson. So, did the state kill an innocent man? 360's Randi Kaye has the new developments.
We also have a strange story out of Russia where an ice skating bear attacked two people. You read that right. We're talking about a bear wearing ice skates.
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10pm ET. See you then!
James Arthur Ray
For me, for the families and friends of the sick and deceased and for many people who believe in the important work we do, these have been the most difficult ten days of our lives.
People are throwing out accusations and disparaging me and our mission. Yet despite that, and despite considerable criticism, I have chosen to continue with my work. It's too important not to. One of the lessons I teach is that you have to confront and embrace adversity and learn and grow from it. I promise you I am doing a lot of learning and growing. I have taken heat for that decision, but if I chose to lock myself in my home, I am sure I would be criticized for hiding and not practicing what I preach.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) discusses details for seniors in current health care reform legislation. (Getty Images)
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
UPDATE BEAT 360º WINNERS
"The House I will shake up.
With Republicans, I won’t makeup.
I say a little pray for you…
While combing my hair now,
Demanding health care reform now,
I say a little prayer for you."
"For the last time, I am not Judge Judy's sister!"