The True Story Behind Harrowing Drama ‘Trial By Fire’

The film, which just landed on Netflix, is stirring up questions

Trial By Fire isn’t a new film – it was actually released back in 2018 – but it’s certainly stirring up conversation thanks to it landing on Netflix this week. What you might not be as across is the true story behind the film.

Who Is Cameron Todd Willingham?

A Texan, Willingham was convicted in 1992 of the arson-related triple homicide of his three little girls after they died in a house fire he managed to escape. Willingham was far from an upstanding citizen, holding a criminal record and known for his violent tendencies – but never against his children.

Cameron Todd Willingham
Cameron Todd Willingham and his family

Did He Set The Fire?

Willingham insisted that he didn’t, plus early forensic evidence wasn’t conclusive. Still, he was sent to death row. 

The investigative techniques used by police were also criticised, both around the time of his execution and after, in 2009. In August 2009 an investigative report by an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission deduced that the original claims of arson were doubtful.

What Happened To Cameron Todd Willingham?

In 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed afters years of trying to appeal his conviction, maintaining his innocence until the end. He was 36 years old.

What Is The Film Based On?

While the events are based on real life, the film used this New Yorker article by David Grann as a reference point.

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