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View Diary: Historic: Texas Re-Examining a Wrongful Execution (27 comments)

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  •  Unfortunately, those (1+ / 0-)
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    who see this investigation as a victory don't understand Texas government. The only possible purpose of this investigation will be the exoneration of the system, the prosecutors, and Perry. That is what Texas state commissions do. It is all they do. The conservative Republican government of the State of Texas is an appalling cadre of hatred and arrogance. There is a special place in hell for all of them. My only consolation is that the rest of the country is beginning to wake up. From now on, these arrogant animals will no longer get to enjoy the popular romantic "Wyatt Earp" image that our misled country has bestowed upon them and worshiped throughout the conservative movement. Sure, they will continue to arrogantly revere and stubbornly defend their pathetically sinister ideology, in genuine George W. Bush fashion, along with the evil consequences of their policies. In Texas, the wealthy and powerful need never fear being brought to justice through the common social institutions. But history, at last, will now expose this bundle of shit as the last gasps of conservative arrogance gone mad -- the very heart and soul of the Bush madness. They will look a lot like other deposed sadistic tyrants in the years to come, and I can't wait for the world to read all about it.

    If McCain makes the next Supreme Court appointment, we will think the Bush days were the good old days!

    by phaktor on Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 09:57:37 PM PDT

    •  reasons for hope (1+ / 0-)
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      Even if the commission decides not to recommend any actions against the prosecutors or the state fire marshall, just having it on the record that an innocent person was executed will be a very big development.

      But beyond that, there are reasons for my optimism.

      First, it's worth noting that the commission unanimously agreed to investigate this case, and it's one where the national scientific standards are today pretty clear and widely recognized, far beyond where they were at the time of the trial.

      Second, they're simultaneously investigating the conviction of Ernest Willis, who was actually exonerated shortly after Willingham's execution while on death row, again based on faulty fire science presented at trial.  

      Third, the commission is planning to hire an independent investigator next month, rather than let state investigators handle the matter (and they have insisted that the fire marshall's office, which was responsible for much of the faulty testimony at trial, respond to the complaints raised by the Innocence Project).  

      Fourth, the only commissioner who's actually a member of a prosecutorial department seems to have been convinced that, even if there was no intentional wrongdoing in the prosecution against Willingham, there was plenty of reason to doubt his guilt by the time of his execution:

      Commissioner Alan Levy, a member of the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in Fort Worth, suggested that arson witnesses might not have been guilty of misconduct if they testified using standards accepted at the time.

      "What you're saying," he told Innocence Project researcher Gabriel Oberfield, who was present for the session, "is that it was pretty much the Wild West back then. That the state of the science was dismal."

      Oberfield responded that reliable investigative standards may or may not have been available at the time of the trial, but had been adopted long before Willingham's execution.

      Investigative agencies, he contended, have a "continuing obligation" to inform courts when such critical standards are updated.


      "Each and every one of the 'indicators' listed by Mr. Vasquez means absolutely nothing, and, in fact, is expected in a context of a fire that has achieved full room involvement, as this fire clearly did," the investigators argued.

      And finally, this case has received a ton of attention in Texas, especially in the Legislature (the TFSC was established in 2005 by the Legislature after the extensive and critical coverage in 2004 of the execution.  With as much pressure as there has been concerning this case, it's quite hard to imagine a whitewash avoiding fairly massive legislative retribution.

      So there are no guarantees, but it's the best shot at a real review of an imposition of death penalty we've ever had.  I plan to keep following this, as do the Texas media and the community of fire investigators (and I guarantee you whomever the commission hires to conduct the investigative review will be scrupulously watched by his or her fellow investigators to ensure compliance with scientific standards).

      One more Justice and John McCain gets his wish.

      by JR on Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 11:20:13 PM PDT

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    •  But I will grant this: (0+ / 0-)

      It's possible that the commission might, in a fairly stunning act of cowardice, decide that the Fire Marshall's office did not have an obligation to inform the court that the state of fire investigation had changed so dramatically prior to Willingham's execution as to render the evidence used to convict him completely unreliable and unacceptable by modern standards.

      I would be floored if they did, but I admit it may be possible (I'm not completely versed in the ethical standards governing the Fire Marshall's office, but I'm looking into it now that you've got me thinking about it more).

      One more Justice and John McCain gets his wish.

      by JR on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 12:14:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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