Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perry announces and Cameron Todd Willingham spins in his grave

So Texas Governor Rick Perry’s throwing his hate, er, hat in the presidential ring today.

He’s been described as one of the best fundraisers in politics, with a vast network of wealthy supporters, so money should be no object.

Great. Just what we need: another Texas governor who’s not what he seems to be, can’t be counted on to represent the majority of his constituents, and has no qualms about innocent people being sent to their death while he’s in charge.

Perry has embraced religious extremists and claimed God Almighty wants him to hold elective office. He's suggested that Muslims be barred from becoming naturalized citizens. He’s created massive budget deficits. He’s advocated that Texas secede from the union as a result of national health care reform. And he’s made taxpayers pay his outrageous personal expenses: according to a May 2010 report by Texas Watchdog, taxpayers were forced to cough up almost $600,000 in rent and other living expenses for Perry’s West Austin mansion, including a $700 coat rack.

Cameron Todd Willingham
Most disturbingly, the State of Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham, 36, on February 17, 2004, for a crime he didn’t commit.

Here’s a quick summary of the case by the Innocence Project, which tries to exonerate wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and other means:

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three young daughters 13 years earlier. He always claimed his innocence, and the arson investigation used to convict him was questioned by leading experts before Willingham was executed. Since 2004, further evidence in the case has led to the inescapable conclusion that Willingham did not set the fire for which he was executed.

On December 23, 1991, a fire destroyed the Corsicana, Texas, home Cameron Todd Willingham shared with his wife and three daughters, killing the three girls. Willingham, who was asleep when the fire started, survived. His wife was at the Salvation Army buying Christmas presents for the girls.

He was convicted based on the testimony of forensic experts who said they had determined that the fire was intentionally set and a jailhouse informant who said Willingham had confessed to him.

Thirteen years later, in the days leading up to Willingham’s execution, his attorneys sent the governor and the Board of Pardon and Parole a report from Gerald Hurst, a nationally recognized arson expert, saying that Willingham’s conviction was based on erroneous forensic analysis. Documents obtained by the Innocence Project show that state officials received that report but apparently did not act on it. Willingham was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville on February 17, 2004.

In 2009, an arson expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission issued a report finding that experts who testified at Willingham’s trial should have known it was wrong at the time. Days before that expert was set to testify, however, Gov. Rick Perry replaced key members of the panel, delaying the investigation for months.

An investigative report in the September 7, 2009, issue of
The New Yorker deconstructs every facet of the state’s case against Willingham. The 16,000-word article by David Grann shows that all of the evidence used against Willingham was invalid, including the forensic analysis, the informant’s testimony, other witness testimony and additional circumstantial evidence.

Too bad today’s media coverage of Perry’s announcement is all about campaign tactics and positioning and fundraising and messaging and voter blocs. It would be nice to learn who he is, what he stands for and what he’s done. It would be interesting if he were made to justify his actions in the Willingham case.

Anita and I watched a video clip several months ago of Perry responding to a reporter’s question by saying Willingham was executed because “he was a bad man.” If we’re killing people for being “bad” now, I suspect more than a few elected officials are biting their nails and squirming in their seats.

This time, can we keep the Texas governor in Texas where he belongs, people?

The Motor City Madman and the Ass from Austin


  1. I remember that case. It was very evident to many people that Todd Willingham was innocent. The media was all over the story. But the governor offered no stay of execution. I remember thinking how stupid he was, or just plain evil. Or both.
    I've also thought there was something on his part about the burning down of the Governors Mansion. It was arson. And no efforts have been made to rebuild. I kinda think Perry wants to live out of view of the public. And what? Is he a womanizer or gay?? Cocaine? Flip flopper.. This man, Rick Perry is the ANTI-CHRIST!! He would like to take away free public education, and only the rich and elite who can PAY FOR AN EDUCATION will get an education. I speak the truth, since he has already cut the education budget for public schools. Leaving the best educations coming from private entities. Social welfare also suffered greatly during this last budget crisis. Sad that he chose the most vulnerable to cut monies from first. Anyone who believes he is a Christian, remember this..."whatever you do to the least of my people, you do unto me.."

  2. I just read the New Yorker article by David Grann. Too disturbing for words.