October 13, 2009

Texas Gov. Perry Still Coving Up Death Penalty Error

If you haven't seen the story about Texas (likely) executing an innocent man, you should really read it.

What is becoming almost as interesting are the brazen attempts by Gov. Perry to bury the story.

I think I'm OK with the death penalty, as long as the guilt of the prisoner is clear and that the process (trial/sentencing/appeals/execution) happens quickly. The process the US has now, where it takes over a decade, is ridiculous. On the other hand, I'm not so attached to the death penalty that I would be sad to see it disappear. Anything is better than the system we have.

Posted by baltar at October 13, 2009 08:29 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Corruption | Law and the Courts


You really need to fact check.

1) "Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty:
"Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article.

Myarticle, above, was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below

2) EXCLUSIVE: City report on arson probe:
State panel asks for city response in Willingham case

3) No Doubts

For a collection of articles, go to:

Corsicana Daily Sun, The Willingham Files

OTHER REPORTS: There is the potential for, at least, 3 more, official, reports on this case: the Texas Fire Marshall's office, which will give an official and requested reply, the Corsicana Police Dept. and Navarro County District Attorney's office, both of which, I speculate, may only contribute to the TFM report, but could issue their own reports.

There is an official "report" which, it appears, few have paid attention to - the trial transcript.

I find that rather important because, at least five persons, who were involved with the trial, the prosecutor, defense attorney, two surviving fire investigators and a juror have all voiced support for the verdict, still, in the light of the criticism of the arson forensics.

One of those original fire investigators is, now, an active certified arson expert.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp at October 14, 2009 06:16 AM | PERMALINK

The idea of a Perry cover-up in the Willingham case is idiotic.

Perry's replacement of the 3 board members was guaranteed to bring more outrage, more suspicion, more attention and, even more, negative political and media fallout.

And Perry knew that, before he did it.

Furthermore, the reports, highly critical of the Willingham trial forensics have long been in the public domain.

There is zero opportunity for a cover up, but a 100% chance of negative political fallout, which is the last thing Perry needs.

The question, then, is "Why DID Perry do this?"

It's a mystery. Maybe someone will try to solve it, instead of crying "cover up" when the case is, already, fully exposed.

The comparison of Perry's actions to Richard Nixon's firing of Archiblad Cox are idiotic. Nixon fired Cox before the release of the tapes. Predictably, that is Barry Sheck's analogy - simply stupid.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp at October 14, 2009 07:00 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Sharp,

I appreciate the time you take to reply to an obscure blog post. That being said, your own blog/article does not really reveal any additional information. You question Grann's motives (calling him an "anti-death penalty activist") without actually offering a shred of evidence that he is biased. Maybe he is; you certainly don't show that.

As for the rest of your assertions, you offer no new evidence of Willingham's guilt or innocence. The newspaper articles you cite offer interviews with several of the people involved, but only one-and-a-half of the people (Fogg and Hensley, who gained expertise after the fact) seem relevant. The opinions of the prosecuting attorney aren't really relevant when the overall question (that Grann raises) is whether their was a crime in the first place. And Grann's article raises professional doubts about Fogg and Hensely's expertise/abilities in these areas. This was, I thought, the role of the commission (that Gov. Perry has derailed): to sort out the actual facts, and determine (as scientifically as possible) whether there was an accidental fire or not. Pointing to an article where Fogg and Hensley claim they were right does not add to our store of knowledge, and does nothing to resolve the ambiguities in this case.

You seem particularly upset with what you see as attempts by people to make Willingham look better than he is. You take great pains to show what an asshole Willingham is (discussion of how he likely didn't make any serious attempt to save his kids; he demanded treatment for minor wounds while doctors were trying to save his kids, etc.). I am perfectly willing to grant that Willingham is an asshole - a complete shit. That isn't the issue. The issue is whether he is guilty or innocent (or, more basically, was their a crime in the first place?). His character isn't really relevant to basic questions of fact. And your blog post doesn't add any additional facts that support the idea that Willingham is guilty. You offer different interpretations of the same set of facts that Grann discusses; not new facts.

Is Willingham's guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt? That seems unlikely to me (hence my post). Is it possible that Willingham is guilty? Sure; I'm perfectly willing to admit that it is possible that Grann screwed up his research and that Willingham was guilty. That's a possibility. It seems, however, that it is also very possible that Willingham isn't guilty because there was no crime (just a horrible accident and an asshole). The problem is, now that Willingham is dead, there is no chance of the state "fixing" the problem. That is the crux of my argument, at least. I'm not reflexively anti-death penalty; I am, however, worried that since the punishment cannot be reversed (the state has put someone to death) then it would be a great tragedy of justice to kill an innocent man. That is my concern.

As for Gov. Perry, his actions do seem to lend credence to the idea of a cover-up. There may be innocent explanations for why he got rid of all those members of the review board, but it sure looks suspicious. In any event, Gov. Perry is a sideline to the main issue of Willingham.

Again, thank you for commenting. I appreciate your interest.

Posted by: baltar at October 15, 2009 10:54 AM | PERMALINK
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