Governor Perry’s Cover Up of the Willingham Execution

Gov-Perry

Governor Perry of Texas has burst onto the political scene as he attempts to become the Republican nominee for President.  One issue that has so far been kept below the surface is the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

To use an overused cliché, Mr. Perry may have blood on his hands.  In 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the 1991 arson deaths of his three children.

His story is now the subject of a lengthy 2009 New Yorker article and a Frontline episode this year has been reviewed now for some time by the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

At issue was the fact that Mr. Willingham’s conviction was based on forensic techniques, determining that the fire was arson-related, that are now considered scientifically invalid and inconsistent with current accepted scientific standards of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

Without arson, there was no murder in his case, and thus the possibility is raised that an innocent man was convicted and executed.

It was the work of Dr. Gerald Hurst, an Austin scientist and fire investigator, who reviewed the case and concluded that there was no evidence of arson, a conclusion that had been reached by a number of other fire investigators.

How does this impact Governor Perry?  The information of Mr. Willingham’s possible innocence had reached him before Mr. Willingham was executed by lethal injection on February 17, 2004 at the age of 36.

In September 2009, an article appearing in the Austin Statesman was entitled, “Perry’s denial of stay could become campaign issue.”

In a commentary by Gardner Selby, he wrote, “Outside experts who later looked over evidence fueling the verdict concluded that the fire was accidental – not arson.”

Mr. Selby continued, “The first one, Dr. Gerald Hurst of Austin, hurriedly wrote a report faxed to Perry’s office hours before Willingham was killed stating that most conclusions by the initial investigators ‘would be considered invalid in light of current knowledge.’ “

Mr. Hurst told Mr. Selby that he wished he had been more direct.

“The whole case was based on the purest form of junk science,” Hurst said. “There was no item of evidence that indicated arson.”

Wrote Mr. Selby, “As far as I can tell, no one has divined precisely what Perry reviewed before denying Willingham’s requested 30-day stay of execution.”

Governor Perry’s spokeswoman, Katherine Cesinger, told reporters that the Governor had weighed the “totality of the issues that led to (Willingham’s) conviction.” She said he was aware of a “claim of a reinterpretation of (the) arson testimony.”

Governor Perry was also quoted as saying that Mr. Willingham was a wife beater.

However, a stay of execution is a judgment call.  Whether we can fault Governor Perry is probably more a matter of subjective opinion.  However, the crime is never what gets people in politics, it is the cover-up, and that is where we should be more concerned.

In June of 2009, the State of Texas took a very unusual step – they re-examined the case through the Forensic Science Commission.

Dr. Craig Beyler was hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the case.

According to a 2009 investigative report by the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Beyler found “that investigators failed to examine all of the electrical outlets and appliances in the Willinghams’ house in the small Texas town of Corsicana, did not consider other potential causes for the fire, came to conclusions that contradicted witnesses at the scene, and wrongly concluded Willingham’s injuries could not have been caused as he said they were.”

Moreover, the state’s fire marshal, Beyler concluded in his report, had “limited understanding” of fire science. The fire marshal “seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires and how fire injuries are created,” he wrote.

The marshal’s findings, he added, “are nothing more than a collection of personal beliefs that have nothing to do with science-based fire investigation.”

Wrote the Tribune, “Over the past five years, the Willingham case has been reviewed by nine of the nation’s top fire scientists — first for the Tribune, then for the Innocence Project, and now for the commission. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson.”

Importantly, “The only other evidence of significance against Willingham was another inmate who testified that Willingham had confessed to him. Jailhouse snitches are viewed with skepticism in the justice system, so much so that some jurisdictions have restrictions against their use.”

This is where Governor Perry comes into play again.  Two days before the Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to meet to discuss the report, in October 2009, the Governor replaced the chair and two other members of the commission.

The meeting was canceled and accusations flew that Governor Perry was attempting to interfere with the investigation and use it for his own political advantage.

Governor Perry, in a report from CNN, denied these allegations, telling reporters in Austin, “I think people are making a lot of this issue.”

He said the replacement of commission Chairman Sam Bassett and commissioners Alan Levy and Aliece Watts, whose terms had expired, was “pretty normal protocol.”

“If you’ve got a whole new investigation going forward, it makes a lot more sense to put the new people in now and let them start the full process, rather than bring people in there for a short period of time and then replace them,” he said. “I think it makes a whole lot more sense to make a change now than to make a change later.”

Now, nearly two years later, the issue continues.

The State’s Attorney General has stepped in to limit the power of the commission to investigate evidence in cases prior to September 2005, in specific cases. The commission had wanted to review the fire marshal’s office to see if there were other people who may have been wrongly convicted, based on the now-discredited arson science.

“This is yet another stunning example of politics preventing the commission from carrying out the responsibilities that led the Legislature to create the commission in the first place,” Barry Scheck, the co-founder of the Innocence Project said in a Houston Chronicle op-ed two weeks ago.

He said that his goal, and the goal of the Texas commission, is to make sure that the forensic science used in court rooms is based on actual science.

Mr. Scheck called for an investigation of Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado’s actions during the investigation.

“On at least two instances over the past year – once through a letter submitted to the commission and again through the testimony of his attorney – Maldonado has defended the original investigation of the Willingham case, claiming that the investigation was based on sound science even though this has been disputed by many of the nation’s most respected arson scientists and is in clear violation of accepted standards of the NFPA, the nation’s foremost authority on fire investigation science,” Mr. Scheck said.

Mr. Scheck sees this as political, and is not surprised.

“The attorney general and Maldonado are protecting themselves and shielding Gov. Rick Perry from potential criticism and political backlash stemming from the fact that a man was allowed to be executed even though his conviction was based on flawed and outdated science and that this fact had been explained to them at the time by one of the nation’s leading experts in fire science,” he said.

The bottom line is that Governor Perry should be asked by the national media to answer not only for his decision not to examine the Willingham execution more carefully in light of new evidence, but for his apparent efforts to cover up and thwart further investigation.

Presidential politics will make this tricky, but the Obama Administration might want the Attorney General to begin investigating this cover-up, or if the politics get too hot for that, bring on an independent investigator who will have support from across the aisle for a thorough investigation.

The sooner this happens, the better, because as Governor Perry’s presidential campaign proceeds, it will become more difficult to get an accurate answer.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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68 Comments

  1. biddlin

    Love the photo ;-). Why not add froth around the lower lip and chin ? Yellow journalism aside, of course no facts can jar the doctrinaire from their position on this issue . Perry is gambling that he can bankroll the fear manufactured by W. Bush and the latter-day chicken hawks into a presidency and ” tough on crime ” has always been a winning slogan for the religious reich . The smart move for the Obama campaign media hacks would be to keep the story in the news, feed any new information or rumors to the press and let everyone, but the president comment on it .As an unrepentant FDR New Deal liberal, I’m pulling for Michelle Bachmann and her dancing husband to sweep the GOP off their fewer and fewer feet.

  2. biddlin

    rusty49- I just looked at gallup, which has Romney ahead by a couple of points and Obama ahead of everyone else by a couple, but at this point polls mean bupkis ! Just ask Al Gore and John Kerry !

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Guys please don’t turn this into a presidential election discussion. This is about a very serious matter that is about to get blown under in presidential politics.

  4. rusty49

    “Presidential politics will make this tricky, but the Obama Administration might want the Attorney General to begin investigating this cover-up, or if the politics get too hot for that, bring on an independent investigator who will have support from across the aisle for a thorough investigation.”

    Yeah, right David. Why are you running this piece now then? Who are you kidding? It’s all about the election.

  5. biddlin

    Sorry David, but it’s “no news” that Texas republicans execute the innocent and mentally retarded and politicians try to cover-up all indiscretions !

  6. Don Shor

    How about if we figure you’ve gotten in your shots about the presidential election, and focus the conversation now on this particular death penalty case?

  7. E Roberts Musser

    To dmg: YOU MADE THIS ARTICLE ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, to wit:

    [quote]Presidential politics will make this tricky, but the Obama Administration might want the Attorney General to begin investigating this cover-up, or if the politics get too hot for that, bring on an independent investigator who will have support from across the aisle for a thorough investigation.

    The sooner this happens, the better, because as Governor Perry’s presidential campaign proceeds, it will become more difficult to get an accurate answer.[/quote]

    I would also note there is a huge amount of supposition and innuendo in this article, but not much in the way of substance. For instance:

    [quote]Without arson, there was no murder in his case, and thus the possibility is raised that an innocent man was convicted and executed.[/quote]

    Anything is possible…

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: That quote doesn’t make it about presidential elections, it acknowledges the difficulty in getting to the truth at this time. To ignore that is to ignore reality. But that quote itself demonstrates this really was not about presidential elections and more about trying to get to the truth here and also get the findings that an innocent man was executed.

    “I would also note there is a huge amount of supposition and innuendo in this article, but not much in the way of substance. For instance:

    Without arson, there was no murder in his case, and thus the possibility is raised that an innocent man was convicted and executed.

    Anything is possible…”

    Actually there is extensive research which I put into links to keep this from being a 50,000 word article. I merely summarized the findings to keep the article cleaner.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    From onviolence.com:

    [quote]The police then looked into Todd Willingham’s background. As a teen, he used drugs. Later, he had multiple run ins with the law for domestic violence. Worse, prosecutors found out he had a history of satanism, which explained the pentagram pattern of burn marks. At the trial, a psychiatrist, Dr. James Grigson, testified Willingham was a severe sociopath. On top of all that came the most damning fact: Willingham was virtually unharmed by the fire that incinerated his children, and witnesses testified that he wouldn’t go back into his home to try to rescue his children. To top it off, a fellow inmate received a confession from Todd Willingham right before the trial began.[/quote]

    From pbs.org:

    [quote]Even Willingham’s own defense attorney, David Martin, still insists his client started the deadly fire. “Of course I thought he was guilty,” Martin says. “The real fact of the matter is that Willingham was guilty. He wasn’t innocent. He really set that fire and killed those kids.”

    Through interviews with Willingham’s friends and family, FRONTLINE tells the story of a troubled young man with a history of domestic violence who quickly became the prime suspect in his children’s deaths. The discovery by fire investigators of more than 20 indicators of arson at the scene of the fire pointed directly to Willingham’s guilt.

    At the trial, jurors heard evidence that Willingham had confessed to a fellow inmate; that he was a sociopath; and that he had posted satanic images on the walls of his house. “He was an individual with essentially no redeeming value,” former prosecutor John Jackson tells FRONTLINE. “This was his crowning achievement as a psychopath: the murder of his three children.”[/quote]

    From variety.com:

    [quote]Willingham, an unpleasant fellow with a history of domestic violence, was accused of setting the house fire that killed his kids. But filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr. gather convincing testimony from forensic experts who insist that, at the time of Willingham’s trial, largely unregulated arson investigators customarily offered semi-educated guesses with scant scientific basis. Since Willingham’s execution, some of those experts have pressed claims that the fatal fire was an accident. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is depicted throughout doc as impeding investigators. But Willingham’s own defense attorney repeatedly asserts that, whatever the reliability of the evidence, a guilty man paid for his crime. “Incendiary” leaves it up to viewers to decide whether justice was served.[/quote]

  10. J.R.

    Most death penalty cases have numerous experts stating that the perpetrator might be innocent or justified or a victim themselves due to upbringing, insanity etc., or that some evidence is tainted, mistaken, flawed etc. Clearly our death penalty system is broken,

    That said, David’s attempt to take a cheap shot at Governor Perry and then cut off discussion of presidential politics is a bit transparent. The focus of Democrats now is to turn the discussion to religion and abortion and the age of the earth and anything at all except that we have a cratering economy and a president who is out of his depth.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “That said, David’s attempt to take a cheap shot at Governor Perry and then cut off discussion of presidential politics is a bit transparent. “

    Really? Did he not fire the chair of the commission and replace three members right before their report? Did the AG not attempt to thwart an investigation into the fire marshal’s? I have written a number of articles on this case, from well before Perry was a presidential candidate, I care far more about this case than the presidential election. I fail to understand how discussing Obama’s administration and presidential chances helps us understand what happened with this execution which Governor Perry knew about. If you want to write about those things, then write a community bog or submit it to me, but this was a specific article on a specific topic, not an invitation to talk about the presidential election.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Elaine: If he didn’t start the fire, none of his background matters because there is no crime there.[/quote]

    But that is a big “if” – even his own defense attorney believes he started the fire!

  13. Frankly

    [i]”Perry’s denial of stay could become campaign issue.”[/i]

    I doubt it. This is a reverse Willy Horton, and there has never before been political fallout from a governor refusing to stay an execution. The liberal media is trying to make hay out of air. David is doing the same. The only voters that would be turned off by Perry because of this are already turned off by Perry.

    By all accounts Willingham was a very nasty human. That will play into voters assessment of the situation.

  14. medwoman

    ERM

    It would seem to me that the issue is not whether or not Mr. Willingham was an upstanding , honorable citizen, it is only about whether or not he committed this crime. I have a somewhat different take on his own defense attorney’s comment that he did start the fire. Unless he is asserting that Mr. Willingham confessed this to him directly, what it suggests to me is that, perhaps, being convinced of his client’s guilt, he did not mount as vigorous a defense as might have been warranted.

    An additional concern that touches on this case tangentially is an alarming tendency towards discounting scientific evidence throughout our society. I think there is an increasing tendency to assert, because of the ever changing nature of the body of knowledge that is science where new information is constantly being discovered, judged, and weighed against the current body of knowledge, that this somehow discredits science and scientists. examples of this relevant to legal applications would be: attempts to block the introduction of potentially exonerating
    DNA evidence, slow acceptance of the known uncertainties of eyewitness accuracy of identification, and slow acceptance of the idea that confessions can be contaminated by ideas and information either deliberately or unknowingly provided by the police.

  15. medwoman

    JB

    “That will play into Voter’s assessment of the situation”
    I am afraid you are correct in that statement. It shouldn’t. The issue here is not whether or not Willingham was a good guy. It is whether we should expect better behavior from people we are considering for high political office. When the issue is life or death, and new evidence is being presented, I would think that a 30 day stay to allow time for consideration of that evidence would be the mark of a thoughtful executive.
    This does not appear to me to be one of Mr. Perry’s strong points. It would seem from many of his statements that he already knows what the truth is, or when in doubt will rely on God to reveal it to him. I find this attitude far more frightening than Willie Horton and Willingham combined.

  16. Frankly

    Medwoman: you are already about as un-Perry as they come. As I have pointed out before, left-leaning people are different voters… more prone to defending their ideology and political power than their principles. For example, a conservative voter would tend to give credit to a Democrat governor refusing to stay an execution, but a liberal voter would just as easily try to skewer Perry had he agreed to a stay, and then later Willingham got out and murdered again. Certainly the liberal media would have skewered him.

    Republicans and conservative know there is no way to win opinion polls from the left and mainstream media. So, if you are looking for moderates on the right and you are dissapointed none seem to exist, I think you should blame the left and the left media for consistently demonstrating politics over principles.

  17. rusty49

    Hey, hey now you two. Like David and Don said this isn’t about the presidential race, so we can’t talk about that. Tongue firmly implanted in cheek.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    “But that is a big “if” – even his own defense attorney believes he started the fire! “

    Yes his defense attorney from 20 years ago believes he did. He was an appointed defender who apparently did not do a good job on defense from most accounts I have read. He has an interest in believing that.

    However, five different experts believe that the cause of the fire was electrical rather than intentionally set and that the investigators misread the scene of the crime and erroneous thought they had found accellerant and erroneously believed that the burn pattern was a satanic symbol. They also thought an Iron Maiden poster meant he was a devil’s worshiper. A lot of problems with the case. The guy wasn’t a saint, he was a domestic abusers, he had drug problems, but the best forensic technology indicates this was not an arson fire.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    “but a liberal voter would just as easily try to skewer Perry had he agreed to a stay, and then later Willingham got out and murdered again. “

    A stay would not have released him from prison. It would have granted a court more time to review new forensic evidence and determine whether to set aside the verdict and given him another trial.

  20. Frankly

    Don: I don’t know enough about it to comment. It seems there are some questions. But if your motivation on this story is really truly about justice and not anti-Perry politics, you would spend some time commenting on the larger issue of politic risk for governors doing another Willie Horton. There is simply a huge political disincentive to staying an execution. One can also argue that re-trying a case in the court of public opinion undermines judicial protocol. He was tried and convicted in a court of law. Not having been there to experience the trial, I think we are unqualified armchair quarterbacks.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    “Slowly but surely once the left is given enough time it will be impossible to convict anybody of anything. “

    I don’t understand your point here. In order for it to be murder by arson, it had to be an arson. They made that determination using discredited and unscientific means. Alarmingly a man was executed when there was evidence that he had not started the fire. All the efforts that have occurred since 2009 have to been to try to understand how that could happen. Just what does this have to do with not being able to convict someone – don’t you want people to be determined guilty based on real scientific evidence? I don’t get your statement.

  22. David M. Greenwald

    ” Not having been there to experience the trial, I think we are unqualified armchair quarterbacks.”

    Jeff: in some cases you are possibly correct, but this is not one of them. There is very specific evidence that was used to determine that an arson occurred, five experts using modern techniques and science determined that that investigation was flawed and that the cause of the fire that killed the children was electrical. That’s not an armchair statement, it is verifiable.

  23. hpierce

    Maybe I’m as dumb as many believe, but I think the main ‘facts’ speak more to whether there should be a death penalty, as opposed to the man’s prosecution, conviction, incarceration, and imposition of the death penalty sentence, rather than a politician’s “failure” to act to reverse the prosecution, conviction, and/or the applicability of the death penalty.
    If he didn’t do it, he shouldn’t have been convicted.
    If he was convicted and incarerated, and he was shown to be innocent, he should have been released.
    The fact of the matter is that there was reason to prosecute him, he was convicted, the circumstances were that he was subject to the death penalty, and he was executed. Nobody can do ANYTHING about the latter fact. Whether someone could have changed the final fact, at the eleventh hour, based on information that was not ‘vetted’ to the same degree that the previous proceedings had been, appears to be somewhat irrevelent.

  24. biddlin

    David-Is this the first time you’ve observed the inability or unwillingness of jurors, judges and politicians to accept scientific findings ? Jurors and judges regularly reject scientifically supported evidence in favor of anecdotal testimony . Setting aside the possibility of political expediency, and I don’t, politicians are as facile as the general population, and science is hard !

  25. medwoman

    JB

    Interesting that you should try to bring this down to am matter of who is more ideologically driven. To me, there is little more ideological than the assertion that one’s point of view is correct because of one’s religion. Perhaps I am not understanding the distinction you are making between ideology and principles.

    With regard to this particular case, I consider my opinion based solely on principle.
    The principle involved is whether or not our system of laws is just. If what is truly of importance is guilt or innocence, and if there is a suggestion that some of the evidence presented at trial was tainted,
    would it not be a matter or justice to allow enough time for the consideration of that evidence ? This question is independent of the party affiliation of the governor. I am adamantly opposed to the death penalty as a matter of principle and have been equally as disapproving of Democratic as Republican supporters.

    And how is it that you have such knowledge of the inner workings of the minds of liberals that you can predict what they would do in any. circumstance? I firmly believe, as I have stated before, that ideas and actions should be judged on their own merit, not on the identity of the author. It would seem to me that you do not agree with this, but rather judge ideas by who is advocating them. If I am wrong on this, please clarify.

  26. David M. Greenwald

    There was evidence at the time emerging that there may have been no arson, they needed to be sure, they were not. All that is happening now is the effort to figure out what went wrong and now you have a politician (Perry) attempting to influence and stop the commission from issue findings. This is very serious.

  27. David M. Greenwald

    Biddlin: This seems unusually blatant in a case that appears to be fairly clear cut. I’m always amazed as to how much reluctance there is to re-examine cases based on significant new evidence – and this is overwhelming evidence – five independent analyses by industry experts all agree. The other part of this are the efforts it appears by Perry and his people to suppress these findings.

  28. biddlin

    “The other part of this are the efforts it appears by Perry and his people to suppress these findings. ” Which nationally prominent politician wouldn’t have ? I appreciate your outrage, but directing it at Perry is like shooting a Wookie with a dart ! The issue is vastly larger . It is a part of our history and folklore . There is a significant portion of the population willing to ” kill them all and let God sort them out .” It seems odd that they profess belief in His existence but don’t fear His judgment , but they are so entitled .

  29. David M. Greenwald

    I’m really not singling out Perry on this, it only happens that he is the one involved in this execution, it could have just as easily been Kasich in Ohio or some other governor involved in a problematic execution.

  30. memary10

    I have read extensively about the Willingham case because I now understand from direct personal experience just how innocent people can be made guilty and convicted of crimes they did not commit. Every time I hear of such cases, I read and read and research. It is clear from scientific data that Mr. Willingham was convicted and executed on patently false testimony of a proven incompetent crony of the prosecution. Governor Perry was aware of this and ordered the execution of a man he knew was most likely innocent anyway. Governor Perry is a very dangerous right wing ideologue who is ruled by his prejudices. How anyone can fail to see the true face of this grinning jackel is beyond me. I am not ashamed to admit I am very afraid of him.

  31. David M. Greenwald

    I was examining some of the info that Elaine cherry-picked from various sources.

    David Martin is an interesting story. He was on Anderson Cooper back in 2009 claiming his client was guilty.

    One quote that struck me, “You pour lighter fluid on a carpet and set it on fire, it looks just like those pictures.”

    But then if you look at the actual frontline interview you learn some interesting facts…

    JOHN LENTINI, Arson Expert: The fire investigation community largely consists of people who are firemen. They’re not scientists. They don’t have any formal scientific training. Extinguishing a fire and investigating a fire involve two different skill sets and two different mindsets.

    NARRATOR: John Lentini is at the top of his field, one of a small group who reinvented the science of arson detection.

    JOHN LENTINI: So many determinations were based on hunches and feelings. And these guys, they talk about, “Oh, you got to get in there and feel the beast.” Oh! I’m just embarrassed for their profession that this is the way people evaluate physical evidence.

    NARRATOR: The change in arson science began when scientists set their own fires and studied how they burned.

    GERALD HURST, Ph.D., Arson Expert: That was the first time science was ever really introduced into the mainstream of fire investigation.

    NARRATOR: Like Lentini, Dr. Gerald Hurst was one of the new fire scientists.

    JOHN LENTINI: Gerald Hurst is a chemist extraordinaire with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

    MICHAEL HALL, Texas Monthly: He’s the idiosyncratic godfather of modern arson science. He’s like this mad scientist who’s not mad at all.

    I’m setting that up for this bit:

    GERALD HURST: Taking a look at the photographs and video and testimony and fire investigation report, it became apparent that we were dealing with a fire which had gone to flashover.

    NARRATOR: Flashover- the instant ignition of all combustible material in a room.

    GERALD HURST: Flashover had left natural patterns on the floor that all post-flashover fires tend to leave behind, and these had been misidentified as pour patterns. And thus the fire had been labeled an arson.

    NARRATOR: Hurst reviewed the report line by line.

    GERALD HURST: Here’s your first bit of so-called arson evidence. This was typically interpreted in the old days as “a pour pattern.” In other words, someone poured gasoline or some other accelerant down the hallway, out the front door and then ignited it.

    So you have a nationally renouned arson expert who was asked to look at this case and determined that the burn pattern was misinterpreted and you have a lawyer who argues for the original misinterpretation.

    Who do you believe?

    JOHN LENTINI, Arson Expert: The state of Texas executed a man for a crime that they couldn’t prove was really a crime.

    And that’s the same conclusion reached by Dr. Beyler, it’s the same conclusion that the Chicago Tribune researchers reached, etc. The only people who argue otherwise are people who were involved in the original investigation or those who decided against staying the execution in light of new evidence.

  32. David M. Greenwald

    Jeff: There is not a state that I know of that has a policy similar to what allowed Willie Horton to be released from prison, so that’s a red herring argument at best.

  33. wdf1

    [i]They also thought an Iron Maiden poster meant he was a devil’s worshiper.[/i]

    Oh, boy. And I had an Iron Maiden poster as a teen. I had no idea that I was a devil’s worshiper. I guess I’d never have been picked for that jury.

  34. David M. Greenwald

    Here’s the transcript from the Frontline on that blurb:

    [quote]NARRATOR: And in Todd’s teenage love of heavy metal music, Gilbert found an explanation for those satanic posters. They were from the rock bands Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden.

    SHERRY COOLEY, Friend: We had posters of Iron Maiden hanging in our house, too. My ex-husband probably still has his Iron Maiden posters, you know, at 40. He- they were Iron Maiden fans. So what?

    ELIZABETH GILBERT: What they looked at were posters on the wall, which are the typical posters that young men listen to, heavy metal, that he smoked pot, you know, that he had this, you know, horrible past of crime, which turned out to be shoplifting, you know, and a bicycle.

    [/quote]

  35. J.R.

    “I’m really not singling out Perry on this, it only happens that he is the one involved in this execution, it c
    could have just as easily been Kasich in Ohio or some other governor involved in a problematic execution.”

    Yes, it could have been Kasich in Ohio or Walker in Wisconsin or one of the other Republican governors. But could it have been a Democratic governor you call out, or Obama or Holder perhaps? Lots of examples there. But coverage of them is – Unlikely.

    Admittedly it’s your blog and your call what to write about. But protestations of neutrality ring hollow given the record.

  36. wdf1

    J.R.: [i]Yes, it could have been Kasich in Ohio or Walker in Wisconsin or one of the other Republican governors. But could it have been a Democratic governor you call out, or Obama or Holder perhaps? Lots of examples there. But coverage of them is – Unlikely.[/i]

    If the issue is over a likely innocent person getting executed, go ahead and bring on examples of Democratic governors, if you’re aware of them. It seems like an issue of morality that clearly should transcend partisanship.

  37. wdf1

    [i]They were from the rock bands Led Zeppelin…[/i]

    Wow. Then I think an aweful lot of us would be suspect. Even Pat Boone did a heavy metal cover album including tunes by Judas Priest, AC/DC, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne (one-time singer for Black Sabbath), and Led Zeppelin. Dangerous stuff. Don’t let Boone’s wholesome nice boy image fool you. You could probably convict Pat Boone of some pretty damning stuff with evidence like this:

    [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_a_Metal_Mood:_No_More_Mr._Nice_Guy[/url]

  38. David M. Greenwald

    JR: Ironic that you post it the day after I call out Democrats for killing the Hancock Death Penalty bill. I may not be neutral, but I have definitely criticized more democrats than other liberals would have.

  39. J.R.

    David

    ” I have definitely criticized more democrats than other liberals would have.”

    That is very true and goes a long way to give you and your blog credibility. I applaud you for that.

    You are not completely partisan and often make good points. It is hard to overcome, or even see, one’s own biases, but I appreciate that your commentaries are not completely formulaic.

  40. E Roberts Musser

    The point I was making by offering up commentary on the other side, is that it is very difficult after the fact to sort out what actually happened at trial. Don’t you think Frontline “cherry-picked” as well? Did they add in the domestic violence background of the defendant and other evidence at trial that supported the verdict? What they did is Monday morning quarterback a trial, and “cherry pick” information that supported their theory that he was wrongly convicted of the crime. You have to look at the trial in totality, which is what the appellate court would have done. Many of you are making the assumption the defendant was innocent, when this may or may not be so. I would not leap to any conclusions unless I had the complete transcript in front of me, so that I could see the totality of the evidence presented.

    Secondly, if the Governor in this case were a Democrat, would we be even seeing this case in the media at all? I’ll bet not. This case is being media driven for political reasons…

  41. wdf1

    ERM: [i]Secondly, if the Governor in this case were a Democrat, would we be even seeing this case in the media at all? I’ll bet not. This case is being media driven for political reasons…[/i]

    But I thought Fox News was around to provide that counterbalance. If there were something significant to say (criticize) about a Democtratic governor, I’m sure they would oblige.

  42. EastDavid

    hpierce-“Whether someone could have changed the final fact, at the eleventh hour, based on information that was not ‘vetted’ to the same degree that the previous proceedings had been, appears to be somewhat irrevelent.”
    Really? I assume you mean irrelevant? Whether a man who may have been innocent is put to death makes it relevant -to justice. A main point was that the guv did not take the time to allow a 30 day period to further ‘vet’ the new info. You do know that DNA evidence has freed many who had been legally convicted – sometimes of murder.
    Ms Musser: You seem to ‘cherry pick’ more than Frontline has ever been know to. Just by how you seem to define ‘the media’ says volumes – Fox, WSJ, National Review, Weekly Standard,etc don’t count as media?

  43. medwoman

    ERM

    I agree with you completely that we do not know whether or not the defendant was innocent or guilty. What we did have was a suggestion that some of the crucial evidence that led to conviction was faulty. Given that the outcome was life or death, and given that what was being requested was a stay to allow time for consideration of the new information, not declaration of innocence, I find it unconscionable to not allow 30 more days for consideration. I think that JB made the most telling comment here when he said “There is simply a huge political disincentive to staying an execution.” I agree with his interpretation and find it a very sad commentary about our current societal situation in which a politician thinks that his political career is more important that the life of another human being . And even more sad that so many tend to agree with him.

    JB

    I do find a bit of irony in your implying that conservatives ( such as Perry I presume) tend to act on principle while liberals tend to act to defend their power, and yet you seem to be defending Perry’s action here while stipulating that it was politically motivated presumably to protect his power. Perhaps you see this as an exception ? How do you reconcile this seeming disparity ?

  44. AdRemmer

    MW – [quote]I agree with his interpretation and find it a very sad commentary about our current societal situation in which a politician thinks that his political career is more important that the life of another human being .[/quote]

    So, may one conclude that you oppose Obama’s position?

    Obama… “refused as an Illinois state senator to support legislation to protect babies who survived late-term abortions because he did not want to concede — as he explained in a cold-blooded speech on the Illinois Senate floor — that these babies, fully outside their mothers’ wombs, with their hearts beating and lungs heaving, were in fact ‘persons.’”

  45. Frankly

    Medwoman: Conservatives as a matter of principle support the death penalty. So, from the start we have to assume that a conservative like Perry would not have any principle conflict refusing a stay. I cannot say if Perry considered political risks for his refusing to grant a stay. Perry is not Bush, but if you use Bush as a benchmark for how a GOP president performs, he would not care much about public opinion while trying to do the right thing.

    My point was that Democrats and the liberal media have proven they would skewer a GOP politician for anything representing an opportunity to make left political gains, so if Perry or anyother GOP candidate is not moderate enough for their liking, they, Democrats and the liberal media, should blame themselves.

  46. medwoman

    AdRemmer

    I consider that a fair question. “late term abortions”, unlike how they are frequently portrayed in the press are performed for very specific indications, not because a woman just dawdled in making her decision. Also, the term is a little sloppy and can be used rather loosely with regard to gestational age.
    I would need more information about the specifics of the individual cases to know how to respond to this.
    1) What were the gestational ages of the babies of these “late term abortions”
    2) What were the medical indications for the pregnancy terminations- if we are talking about babies with lethal genetic abnormalitites as the reason for the abortion for example, I would not favor heroics to prolong their lives.
    3) Were the mothers lives at risk as the reason for the termination.? If so again, what was the gestational age. Not every baby that delivers with a few breathes and a beating heart has a chance at survival.
    So context really does matter. If you could provide more specifics or refer me to an actual article, I would be happy to share my thoughts
    Since this is within my area of expertise.

  47. medwoman

    JB

    And does the principle behind the death penalty for conservatives include executing men that you have reason to suspect may have been convicted on the basis of faulty evidence ?

  48. Frankly

    Medwoman, No it does not, but the principles of conservatitism include a certain healthy distrust of defense attorneys and anti-death penalty advocates posing as experts. Conservatives also tend to respect and trust the criminal judicial system. I think too most rational people with moderate to right-leaning views of the world think far more bad people get away with crimes… and with the burden of proof for capital murder being so high already, they are reluctant to trust the words of a few post-trial activists over the judicial process that actually convicts someone.

    The murdered usually have a much harder time seeking justice than do their accused killers considering the army of victimologist working hard to set them free.

  49. biddlin

    “army of victimologist working hard to set them free.” As a frequent observer of court trials, other than wealthy defendants (certainly the exception in murder trials), the army of “expert” witnesses is on the prosecution’s team .

  50. AdRemmer

    [quote]… “army of victimologist working hard to set them free.” As a frequent observer of court trials, other than wealthy defendants (certainly the exception in murder trials), the army of “expert” witnesses is on the prosecution’s team[/quote]

    The Office of the Public Defender has no access to expert witnesses, really?

  51. medwoman

    JB

    “I cannot say if Perry considered political risks in deciding whether to grant a stay”
    And yet when a left leaning politician takes a positIon that you do not like, you have no trouble discerning and posting exactly what their thought processes are.

    I feel that you do a real disservice to thoughful individuals of all political persuasions when you repeatedly impugn the integrity of liberals, regardless of issue, and then sidestep your own comment about the lack of political expediency of granting a stay of execution when applied to someone ( Perry) whose views are more closely aligned with your own.

    I simply do not believe, as you seem to, that conservatives have a monopoly on integrity and that liberals act only out of selfishness.
    I also have a hard tome grasping your seeming unwillingness to believe that others can hold their intrinsic beliefs just as strongly as you hold yours.

  52. AdRemmer

    biddlin,[quote]… “The Office of the Public Defender has no access to expert witnesses, really? ” Extremely limited access, due to budgetary constraints ![/quote]

    Care to prove up, your claim, with some facts?

  53. David M. Greenwald

    Well I’m looking into your answer. One point of interest is that a lot of the prosecution’s “expert witnesses” are either police officers or work with the DOJ. This is a relatively inexpensive way to gain experts. So the police can use an analyst from the DOJ to talk about fingerprint analysis, but the defense has to pay for an expert from outside of the DOJ to do a counteranalysis. The DA can rely on the local gang expert from the police while the defense might find a counterexpert but have to pay a few thousand for their appearance.

    The DA already has a built in advantage not only does their office have like five or six times the number of investigators (the PD’s office has three) but they can rely on local law enforcement or the DOJ to assist.

  54. AdRemmer

    b 1st opined [quote]“The Office of the Public Defender has no access to expert witnesses[/quote]

    …then capitulated to: [quote]Extremely limited access, due to budgetary constraints![/quote]

    When b is pressed for facts: _______________________(still waiting)…

  55. biddlin

    ‘”The Office of the Public Defender has no access to expert witnesses…’-Ad Remmer’s words, not mine . David stated the staffing advantages of the DA’s office well. As I did write at the outset,”of course no facts can jar the doctrinaire from their position on this issue . “, but the last time I checked Yolo county DA’s budget was around $12 million/anum vs. Public Defender’s $4.5 million !

  56. AdRemmer

    [quote]the last time I checked Yolo county DA’s budget was around $12 million/anum vs. Public Defender’s $4.5 million ! [/quote]

    Yet, you conveniently forget to list the alternate defender’s budget?

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