For those of you recently returned from exile on a desert island, I’ll run down the case briefly. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas 2004 for setting the fire in his home that killed his three children. Suffice to say that, thanks to the work of the New York Innocence Project, nationally recognized experts determined the fire was not arson, so Willingham was innocent. Unfortunately, knowledge of his innocence did not stop Texas Governor Rick Perry from sending Willingham to his death by lethal injection.
Pursuant to that, the Houston Chronicle requested copies of the information and process Perry used to make his decision, but that FOIA request was denied. The Texas Forensic Science Commission hired its own arson experts, who concurred with the other experts that there was no evidence of arson. On the day before the Commission was to deliver its findings in a public hearing, Perry removed four of the seven commissioners and the commission chairmen, over their objections, and appointed three replacements. The hearing was canceled and the report is in limbo.
Kossack Scott Cobb has done an outstanding job of focusing on this case and his diaries are linked below. Yesterday he detailed, with video, the disturbing footage of one of Willingham’s lawyers insisting his client was guilty, and a Willingham juror with close family ties to the primary prosecution witness. Today Scott diaries responses to the video from lawyers. He also provides a link to download greviance form requesting Willingham’s lawyer, David Martin, who appeared in the unbelievable CNN video, be disbarred.
In 2004 the Chicago Tribune carried a lengthy article Man executed on disproved forensics, which includes a point-by-point rebuttal of the evidence used in the trial. This article also quotes a Willingham defense attorney, David Martin, as saying he believed Willingham was guilty. It also quotes his other defense attorney, Robert Dunn:
"To me, he was not repentant," said Robert C. Dunn, one of Willingham's trial lawyers. "He had this attitude and air about him that he was wrongfully charged."
Imagine that! He was not repentant. Just because he happened to be innocent. And NEITHER of his attorneys even considered that he might be innocent. No wonder they didn’t bother to put on a defense. Think about that. The man was on trial for his life, and neither of his attorneys even considered that he might be innocent.
Several commenters in Scott’s diaries have noted that David Martin is a former Fort Worth police officer and was in the Texas State Police. Apparently Robert Dunn was also a police investigator. I don’t know if that influenced their decisions, but it is apparent that they were unclear as to the duties of a defense attorney.
There was plenty of failure to go around, though. The Texas Pardon and Parole Board "took up" the case a week before the execution. By "took up" I mean they voted. They did not review the new evidence that the fire was not an arson. They didn't even meet. Instead, they faxed in their votes in a process referred to as "death by fax."
as a member of the board at the time, told me of the process, "You don’t vote guilt or innocence. You don’t retry the trial. You just make sure everything is in order and there are no glaring errors." He noted that although the rules allowed for a hearing to consider important new evidence, "in my time there had never been one called." When I asked him why Hurst’s report didn’t constitute evidence of "glaring errors," he said, "We get all kinds of reports, but we don’t have the mechanisms to vet them." Alvin Shaw, another board member at the time, said that the case didn’t "ring a bell," adding, angrily, "Why would I want to talk about it?"
But the final failure was Perry’s. There is ample evidence to indicate that Perry had the arson expert’s report and considered it before allowing Willingham to be executed. Not only do we have the statements of Willingham’s appellate lawyer, who sent the report, but the Tribune article also quotes another Perry aide, who also insisted Perry had considered the report.
Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for the Texas governor, said Perry carefully considered "all of the factors" in Willingham's case before deciding against a stay.
We also have this assurance from Perry’s spokesperson, given to the Houston Chronicle.
The newspaper cited records it did obtain that showed Perry's office got the five-page faxed report at 4:52 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2004.
A statement from Perry spokesman Chris Cutrone, sent to the Chronicle late Friday, said that "given the brevity of (the) report and the general counsel's familiarity with all the other facts in the case, there was ample time for the general counsel to read and analyze the report and to brief the governor on its content."
And his just keeps getting worse and worse. Today I went to Corrente and found this little tidbit about the lawyer who was "briefing" Perry:
That smirk on a face non-Texans might not recognize belongs to David Medina. The one y'all might have seen before, over to the right, is Governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry. Back in 2004, when Perry refused despite receiving expert reports and evidence that Cameron Todd Willingham's conviction for arson didn't withstand a second look, never mind real legal scrutiny, Medina was General Counsel for the Governor's Office. It's entirely possible Medina and Perry sent an innocent man to death in Huntsville. A few years later Medina's house burned, and both he and his wife were indicted for arson; at trial they benefited from the same kind of experts whose work Perry didn't consider when Willingham's life was at stake.
If you want to find out more, here are some other sources. Barry Sheck, director of the New York Innocence Project, weighed in on Perry’s refusal at the HuffingtonPost. He concludes, from the FOIA evidence obtained by The Innocence Project:
The documents show that they received the report, but neither office has any record of anyone acknowledging it, taking note of its significance, responding to it, or calling any attention to it within the government," Barry Scheck said. "The only reasonable conclusion is that the governor’s office and the Board of Pardons and Paroles ignored scientific evidence.
in an August article Innocent, but Executed. This was followed in September by lengthy article by David Grann Vanity Fair that gives a lot of the details from the day of the fire through Willingham’s execution. Scott Cobb has an excellent series of diaries that began witha Nightline story on the case. He followed with details of Perry’s denials, the commission cancellation, details of the Chronicle’s FOIA request, and Perry’s cover-up.
In each diary, Scott has provided this link to a petition encouraging Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man. He explains,"We plan to deliver the petition at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24 at 2:00 pm in Austin at the Texas Capitol."
But before we head off, a word from our sponsors...
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Tonight’s Top Comments....
Dbunn nails it with this comment in NCrissieB's diary Morning Feature: Two Good Arguments (Non-Cynical Saturday).
In a diary about Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who refuses to marry mixed-race couples, rugbymom recounts a nicely barbed comment she saw on a blog somewhere.
In mcjoan's front page Why Blue Dogs and ConservaDems Shouldn't be Allowed to Talk about Healthcare Reform from last night, blueyedace2 gets the set up, but beltane drives it home.
anninla speaks from experience about fundamentalism as politics and links to an outstanding LA Times article by Neil Gabler.
Tonight's Top Mojo is courtesy of the great and powerful Sardonyx:
Top Mojo (cskendrick/sardonyx-style) excluding search-identifiable tip jars and first diary comments:
1) Not for me! by Susan from 29 — 159
2) Were I trying to terrify people with lies, by Mogolori — 95
3) An innocent man must die so Rick Perry's career by MinistryOfTruth — 86
4) Only my mom by Hedwig — 76
5) A good reason to celebrate on a Friday evening by Lefty Coaster — 74
6) my beloveds at the Rainbow Bridge by Debbie in ME — 69
7) Were That We Could Replace by Nulwee — 67
8) They're all scared of her by bumblebums — 65
9) Why do they always dump bad news on a Friday? by mickT — 63
10) More Important Parallel by bink — 62
11) Damien by Debbie in ME — 57
12) I have been writing about MERS for over a year by War on Error — 55
13) I wonder if 2010 by mjd in florida — 55
14) fuck face big eared loony toon liberals by smileycreek — 55
15) stories: Tiger by Debbie in ME — 55
16) If true, positive. by Addison — 54
17) Getcha transcripts! by Britkid — 54
18) lice infested heads? by Hedwig — 54
19) Not wingnuts, too bitter! by irate — 54
20) It s been a wonderful several weeks by Ed in Montana — 52
21) If you had a screw up son like "W" and you by Jane Lew — 52
22) Daily Doll - Chantilly: Going walkabout by funluvn1 — 52
23) works for me by mydailydrunk — 52
24) "Do you see our man Ailes at all?" by daulton — 51
25) The antitrust exemption gets a mention!!!! by brooklynbadboy — 51
26) I still miss my Mickey by Ekaterin — 51
27) YEAH. As a person born in WV, this is by followyourbliss — 50
28) I had a MALE JOB once by citizenx — 50
29) Nikki by Debbie in ME — 50
30) Remember the article "The Quiet Coup" by 4km — 49
Top Mojo with No Exclusions:
1) Tip Jar by Brainwrap — 538
2) Moonbat's feeding bowl by Unitary Moonbat — 373
3) Tip Jar by rperks — 345
4) Who knew this face...... by sluggahjells — 310
5) Tip Jar by funluvn1 — 264
6) Tip Jar by Scott Cobb — 235
7) I left my tip cone in New Orleans. by Crashing Vor — 176
8) Tip Jar by Julie Gulden — 164
9) Go get it done, you Hero! by buhdydharma — 162
10) Not for me! by Susan from 29 — 159
11) Tip Jar by StandUpToRacism — 157
12) Bonus Chart by Pluto — 153
13) Tip Jar by War on Error — 137
14) Tip Jar by benny05 — 116
15) Tip Jar by bwren — 115
16) Tip Jar by Patric Juillet — 103
17) Comrade Obummer by Hedwig — 98
18) Were I trying to terrify people with lies, by Mogolori — 95
19) Tip Jar by slippytoad — 89
20) An innocent man must die so Rick Perry's career by MinistryOfTruth — 86
21) Tip Jar by stef — 80
22) Caligula looked so cute by Frankenoid — 76
23) Only my mom by Hedwig — 76
24) A good reason to celebrate on a Friday evening by Lefty Coaster — 74
25) Tip Jar for Syd too by benny05 — 74
26) May your FP diminish! by Waterbug — 73
27) Tip Jar by DemSign — 69
28) my beloveds at the Rainbow Bridge by Debbie in ME — 69
29) Were That We Could Replace by Nulwee — 67
30) They're all scared of her by bumblebums — 65