Posted by: maboulette | August 30, 2011

THE DEATH PENALTY AND THE INNOCENT MAN


fire

Image by matthewvenn via Flickr

“The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God’s dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne.”  CTW

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in the state of Texas in 2004 for the murder of his three young children in a case of arson.  Governor Perry at this time has what I believe was his finest hour.  Before that execution significant evidence had emerged showing that arson may not have been the cause of the fire which would have exonerated Willingham, and Perry was asked to grant a 30 day stay of execution so that an investigator from the Texas Forensic Science Commission could examine this case.  The Governor a man of unbelievably dubious integrity refused this stay. 

Then in August 2009 five years after the execution of Willingham, a national arson expert Craig Beyler released a report to the Texas Forensic Science Commission and using already gathered evidence together with data from advances in fire science made since the original 1992 investigation, found that the fire was accidental, could not have been an arson and that Willingham was undoubtedly innocent.  So there was a mistake made by the Governor somewhere – but wait, it gets worse. 

Since this was the beginning of election time in Texas and Perry was hot and heavy into another race for governor, Perry was asked about this report.  Perry stood by the decision to execute Willingham by arguing that: 

Even without proof that the fire was arson, (Perry) added, the court records he reviewed before the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 showed ‘clear and compelling, overwhelming evidence that he was in fact the murderer of his children’. Now this statement is just not true as the new report with the new evidence was available to the Governor at this time. 

Perry actually attempted to cover up the exculpatory evidence in order to protect his re-election interests.  As the commission prepared to hear testimony from the investigator in October of 2009, Perry very quickly fired and replaced three of the members, forcing an indefinite delay in the hearing. 

So it seems that Perry may have allowed the execution of a likely innocent man, and then impeded an investigation into the matter. 

This country already tried electing a morally bankrupt former Republican Governor from Texas to the presidency and it was thought by many to be an unquestionable disaster.  Even if running against Rick Perry would mean an easier re-election fight for President Obama, I do not even want to take any chances with someone this dangerous winning the Republican primary. 

Included is the link to the full text of the report prepared by Dr. Craig Beyler for the Texas Forensic Science Commission entitled, “Analysis of the Fire Investigation Methods and Procedures Used in the Criminal Arson Cases Against Ernest Ray Willis and Cameron Todd Willingham“. 

In 2011, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, a documentary film dissecting the case and its controversial aftermath, won the Louis Black Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The film was one of ten American films screened in the 2011 AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival U.S. Feature Competition. 

A complete report on this entire incident is located at this link.   An article was written by David Grann and appeared in The New Yorker first bringing this issue to the public for front.  This article is entitled  “Trial by Fire” and is linked from here.

 

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Responses

  1. In case anyone is interested, there are actually two sides to this whole mess. The reasons this matter has resurfaced are: (1) to cast a very bad light on Perry, and (2) to build a base to repeal the death penalty in Texas.

    If you are interested in ‘the rest of the story’, go to: http://rickvskay.blogspot.com/2009/10/cameron-todd-willingham-was-guilty-as.html

    • Exactly and guess who is against the death penalty!! But I really doubt if it will ever get repealed in Texas.

      • As you know, I am pro-life. IMO, a real pro-lifer supports life on both sides of the womb…LOL I could support repeal of the death penalty IF..we could amend s.o.p. in re how we care for the prisoners; stricly limit there rigths and no more sitting in a cell, they work (manuel labor) at least 8 hours a day.

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  4. Just a quick amendment – Willingham’s appeals attorney asked for a 30 day stay so that Gerald Hurst’s report could be reviewed by other fire scientists. The Texas Forensic Science Commission was established by the Texas legislature in the Spring of 2005. That’s why last month, AG Greg Abbott responded to former commission chair and Perry political ally John Bradley’s request for clarification, by declaring cases predating the commission’s creation were outside the commission’s jurisdiction.

    Since that time at least nine fire scientists have come forward to state that none of the 20 indices used to convict Willingham were valid. BTW, the report that Perry ignored – it was used to overturn the conviction of a fellow death row prisoner, eight months after Perry was executed. The evidence against both men was virtually identical.

    See the INCENDIARY trailer here: http://bit.ly/IncendiaryClip

  5. I should clarify that the scientists have reviewed the original “evidence” and issued their reports since Gerald Hurst’s report in 2004.


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