Criminal Justice

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Sticks His Fingers in His Ears

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Last August, forensic fire expert Craig Beyler published a report commissioned by the Texas Forensic Science Commission on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was executed in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his three daughters. Beyler's report was damning. He concluded that there was no evidence Willingham set the fire, or even that the fire was intentional. Beyler wrote that the state fire investigators who testified against Willingham had "poor understandings of fire science," had a ""predisposition to find arson in his cases," and their opinions weren't founded in science but rather were "nothing more than a collection of personal beliefs."

Beyler was the ninth forensic fire expert to reach the conclusion that there was no evidence Willingham set the fire.

Last month, the New Yorker followed up with an in-depth investigation by David Grann arguing that Willingham was innocent. A national discussion followed over whether Willingham represents the first known innocent person executed in the modern era of capital punishment.

The Forensic Science Commission was supposed to meet today to review Beyler's report and Willingham's case. But that isn't going to happen. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed off on Willingham's execution, has abruptly replaced three of the commission's members, forcing the cancellation of today's meeting. Notably, he replaced the head of the commission—defense attorney Sam Bassett—with John Bradley, a district attorney. Another member Perry replaced, prosecutor Alan Levy, warned Perry's office weeks ago that replacing members now could disrupt the Willingham investigation.

Perry says the commission members had reached the end of their terms, so their removal was "business as usual." Those familiar with the commission say reappointments are common, and Perry's timing is suspicious.

Perry also continues to defend Willingham's execution. The Associated Press reports that after the Beyler report and New Yorker articles came out, Perry referred to the nine forensic arson experts who criticized the trial testimony of two local fire chiefs as  "supposed experts," adding that he hadn't "seen anything that would cause me to think that the decision" to put Willingham to death "was not correct."

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26 responses to “Texas Gov. Rick Perry Sticks His Fingers in His Ears

  1. Balko Brand Deppress-Os Cereal, part of a complete balanced breakfast.

  2. Que sera sera.

  3. I suppose this is helpful for me to a certain extent in that I’m more likely to vote for Hutchinson for Governor now.

    Definitely will vote against Perry.

  4. Perry also continues to defend Willingham’s execution. The Associated Press reports that after the Beyler report and New Yorker articles came out, Perry referred to the nine forensic arson experts who criticized the trial testimony of two local fire chiefs as “supposed experts,” adding that he hadn’t “seen anything that would cause me to think that the decision” to put Willingham to death “was not correct.”

    Well, governor, that may be the case because you’re a twisted and corrupt fuck.

    Supposedly.

  5. Perry, you idiot, don’t be evil enough to make me actually vote (against you).

    When is the TX GOP primary again?

  6. Perrz is a murderer and proud of it.

  7. *Perry

    Damn you switching between German and English keyboard layout

  8. So many people I know, who otherwise completely distrust the government, are adamantly pro capital punishment. As though the criminal justice system is separate and immune from the corruption, self-serving and groupthink that defines government.

    [cough]nifong[/cough]

    While I may agree that some people are so detestable that the best way they can serve this world is by leaving it, I also know that we are totally incompetent in judging them so.

    1. So many people I know, who otherwise completely distrust the government, are adamantly pro capital punishment. As though the criminal justice system is separate and immune from the corruption, self-serving and groupthink that defines government.
      This does seem to be a paradox.

      However, you have not considered the alternative, which is vigilante death squads meting out justice as they see fit. Is that any better?

    2. Two thumbs way up!

  9. Radley — If you haven’t already done so, you might want to get your hands on Triple Jeopardy, by Roger Parloff (1996). It deals with an extremely similar case from AZ in the 1970s, with similar “arson expert” incompetence. Fortunately, in that case, the defendant was finally released after 3 trials.

  10. Balko, this post is so racist… oh wait, its anti-republican??? nevermind.

  11. I don’t live in TX, but I hope Perry loses. Maybe this time the Kinkster can run and win. Why the hell not? How hard can it be?

    1. I voted for Kinky last time, you can bet I will vote for Anybody-But-Perry this time. Screw that bastard and his 10th Amendment grandstanding.

      1. I voted for Grandma last time. This time its going to K.B.H.

        I would encourage everyone to vote for Perry’s biggest threat.

    2. Friedman is running under the Democratic ticket this year.

  12. Another fabulous result brought to by the state’s monopoly on the administration of justice.

  13. Perry referred to the nine forensic arson experts who criticized the trial testimony of two local fire chiefs as “supposed experts,” adding that he hadn’t “seen anything that would cause me to think that the decision” to put Willingham to death “was not correct.”

    Rick Perry has is unable to question his own infallibility. That is one of the symptoms of complete assholery.

  14. Just so everyone knows, Bradley is the cockass DA who pushed through legislation mandating forcible blood draws for suspected drunk drivers who refuse breath tests.

  15. Don’t care for Perry, can’t stand KBH: she’s the one in the US Senate that stopped the Wright Amendment from being completely repealed in 2006.

    Kinky, here I come!

    1. Check out Debra Medina.

  16. If I still end up being eligible for voting at that point (will actually be in Canada, and haven’t looked up the specifics of absentee voting yet), I will vote for whoever has the best chance of beating Perry, almost regardless of ideology. He’s just such an egregious ass.

  17. Am I the only one who remembers that Rick Perry is one of the few members of congress who has endorsed a 10th amendment bill and talked about standing up to the federal government?

    1. Gevernor — and yes. He has come out publicly in favor of State’s rights, including the right to forcibly confiscate your blood. He also mentioned Texas’ right to secede, which is a sweet but fabricated bit of Lone Star trivia. Whatever he’s done wrong, you can’t accuse him of being a scholar of government.

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