This Frontline documentary investigates the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who was executed in Texas in 2004 for allegedly setting the fire that killed his three young daughters. Prior to his execution, reports were submitted to Texas officials raising serious doubts about the science used to determine that the fire was arson.
2006 book by John Lentini on appropriate techniques for fire scene investigations and chemical analysis of fire debris. Highlights frequent errors in fire investigation, the history of fire investigation and how the profession has evolved.
2012 DOJ publication by Arnaud Trouve’ and Thomas Minnich. This publication explains the Burning Item Database which describes the burning characteristics of common household and office items.
2012 DOJ publication by James G. Quintiere, Justin T. Warden, Stephen M. Tamburello, and Thomas E. Minnich that addresses the principles of spontaneous ignition and its potential role as the cause and origin of a fire.
2012 DOJ publication by Marc L. Janssens that investigates how to estimate the burning rate of upholstered furniture and how to express the uncertainty of this prediction.
The National Fire Protection Association publishes this manual which is the standard of care in fire investigation. This guide can be viewed for free on the NFPA website which is an excellent way to become familiar with the standards; however, if you wish to download or print it, you must purchase a copy. Email Sarah Rackley Olson if …
2000 NIJ publication written and approved by the Technical Working Group on Fire/Arson Scene Investigation. Includes recommendations about preserving the scene, interviewing witnesses, documentation, and evidence processing.
This 2009 NIJ publication describes recommended practices for the collection and preservation of evidence at fire scenes. This guide may provide areas of cross examination in cases where the recommended policies were not followed.
Focuses on standards and guidelines related to the investigation, analyses and interpretation of crime scenes where arson or use of explosives is suspected. This OSAC has replaced what was the Technical Working Group for Fire and Explosions.
See pp. 170-173 for the National Research Counsel’s assessment of the analysis of explosives evidence and fire debris
The American Association for the Advancement of Science produced this July 2017 report that assesses what aspects of fire investigation are well founded and science and where gaps exist in knowledge. The full report is available for free download. A “plain language” summary is also available for download.
754 F.Supp. 2d 89 (2010). This opinion by Judge Nancy Gertner is a must-read regarding standards of representation in arson cases. The opinion provides useful information on Daubert hearings, cause and origin testimony, burn patterns, canine evidence and laboratory analysis.
This criminal justice research project has a mission of examining the reliability of evidence used in the investigation and prosecution of arson and identifying convictions obtained based on unreliable evidence.
2012 DOJ publication by Richard J. Roby, Ph.D. and Jamie McAllister, Ph.D. that looks at the physical characteristics of energized and non-energized wires subjected to various types of fire exposures.
Practice tips If any of these findings were used to identify arson in your case, you should conduct further research and investigation: pour patterns, crazed glass, melted metal thresholds, burn marks under doorways, chipping of concrete, alligatoring or blistering of burned wood, or the point of origin being where the most damage occurred. The Discover …