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Dallas Morning News Editorial says Forensic Panels Should Hold Public Open Meetings

By , April 27, 2010

The Dallas Morning News has an editorial today saying that the Texas Forensic Science Commission should hold public meetings of all of its committees, including the committee dealing with the Todd Willingham investigation.

We agree and after last Friday’s meeting, Texas Moratorium Network started an online petition to allow the public to contact FSC Chair John Bradley and other members of the Commission to urge them to hold public meetings.

Click here to sign the petition, which sends an email to the Commission every time someone signs.

Today’s DMN Editorial:


The Texas Forensic Science Commission has taken a step forward and then tap-danced behind a cloud of secrecy under the leadership of new Chairman John Bradley.
Disturbing philosophy
“I don’t think that is in the best interest of trying to move forward on this, because the ability to discuss and resolve these issues requires us to have those discussions in private. … All of our issues will be released publicly during full commission meetings.”
John Bradley, chairman of the Texas Commission on Forensic Science, when asked about keeping committee meetings open
Meeting Friday for just the second time since Bradley was named in September, the commission resumed work on the four-year-old complaint filed in the Cameron Todd Willingham execution case.
That made good Bradley’s promise to state lawmakers to advance the matter. He also should get credit for asking those commissioners who have been working two-plus years on the case to fully air their opinions.
None disagreed that much more information is needed beyond the searing critique from eminent arson scientist Craig Beyler.
Just how – and how much – information should be gathered is a matter of keen public interest, but Bradley wants the initial course to be charted in private.
That’s an awful approach.
Everyone knows the Beyler report is a potential political grenade. In a report to the commission last summer, Beyler said state and local investigators ignored sound scientific techniques in concluding that arson caused the 1991 fire that killed Willingham’s three daughters in their Corsicana home. Convicted of murder, Willingham was executed in 2004 – Rick Perry, governor.
Commissioners say they need to study a range of documents, including the full transcript of the trial, in which state and local arson investigators testified. Commissioners said they have questions for Beyler and probably for other experts.
Nearly all of the nine commissioners are scientists, and they should pursue the evidence they need. Their job is not to reconsider the verdict against Willingham, but to determine whether junk science was part of his trial.
The matter is now before a four-person committee that Bradley formed to guide the Willingham case. Bradely, the district attorney of Williamson County, named one defense attorney to the committee, which achieves balance. But limiting membership to four means the committee isn’t a commission quorum and, therefore, doesn’t trigger an open-meetings requirement.
Secret meetings run contrary to a basic principle of public service. State law and the Texas Constitution give some investigatory bodies authority to conduct business confidentially. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct is one. The forensics commission, however, is not.
Nowhere did lawmakers give the commission that latitude when they created it in 2005. Procedures the commission adopted in January are silent on the matter. Some commissioners said after Friday’s meeting that they were surprised that committee sessions would be done in secret.
When Perry installed Bradley and three other new members last fall, critics hatched the theory that the governor wanted the Willingham matter frozen until after the 2010 election. Bradley has said he didn’t accept Perry’s appointment to be somebody’s puppet, and we’ll accept that at face value. At the same time, though, he must see that public confidence is at stake. The way to preserve that is to conduct state business where the state can see it.
“I don’t think that is in the best interest of trying to move forward on this, because the ability to discuss and resolve these issues requires us to have those discussions in private. … All of our issues will be released publicly during full commission meetings.”
John Bradley, chairman of the Texas Commission on Forensic Science, when asked about keeping committee meetings open

Sign Email Petition: “I support public meetings of all committees of the Texas Forensic Science Commission”

By , April 24, 2010

Please add your name to the list of people urging Chair Bradley and other members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission to make all of its committee meetings open to the public and the media.

The “Investigative Committee on the Willingham/Willis Case” of the Texas Forensic Science Commission is holding secret, private, closed door meetings without any public notice to discuss the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation.

Other committees of the TFSC are also being held in secret. Since the four-person Willingham/Willis committee does not form a quorum of the entire nine member Commission, it is not subject to the Open Meetings Act — which means it can legally deliberate in secret. However, the members of the Commission can vote to make all meetings public and to follow the rules of the Open Meetings Act.

Unless, the policy is changed, the public will not be privy to discussions by the four-member panel of the Commission that is responsible for scrutinizing the reliability of the arson investigation used to convict Todd Willingham.

Instead, the panel will report its conclusions to the nine-member commission, which will make the matter final.

Asked if he favored allowing the public to attend such sessions, TFSC Chair John Bradley responded, “No,”.

If you believe that all subcommittee meetings of the Texas Forensic Science Commission should be public and not private, secret closed door meetings, then please join us in writing commission Chair John Bradley and other Commission members urging them to make the meetings public and to post notices on the Commission website of when and where the subcommittee meetings will take place.

Shortly before Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for an arson that killed his three young daughters, Texas Governor Rick Perry had received a request that he delay the execution based on an arson expert’s report that evidence presented at the trial did not show that the fire had been deliberately set.

Dr. Craig Beyler, one of the nation’s top arson experts, who after a search was hired by the Forensic Science Commission to investigate the case, submitted a report to the Commission in 2009 that the fire may well have not been caused by arson at all.

Secret, closed-door thwart transparency and erode public confidence in the commission’s work, which has already been compromised by Governor Rick Perry’s abrupt dismissal of the previous chair and three other members of the TFSC two days before the Commmission was scheduled to discuss the report by Dr Craig Beyler.

Please add your name to the list of people urging Chair Bradley and other members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission to make all of its committee members open to the public and the media.

Forensic Science Commission Holding Secret Closed Meetings in Todd Willingham Case

Watch Live Web Broadcast of Forensic Science Commission Meeting Today

By , April 22, 2010
The Texas Forensic Science Commission meeting on April 23 will be streamed live on the website of the Innocence Project. 


For background information on the Todd Willingham case, visit www.camerontoddwillingham.com. Click here to join the Texas Moratorium Network Facebook page.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission has posted its agenda for its meeting in Irving, Texas on April 23, 2010 at the Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas, 221 E. Las Colinas Blvd, Irving, Texas (Map and directions). The meeting starts at 9:30 AM, but is expected to last all day and the public comment period will be at the end of the meeting.
The agenda includes a period to accept comments from the public, although the proposed new rules on public comments say that the public comment period may be eliminated, reduced or postponed “if deemed necessary due to time constraints or other exigent circumstances”. Each commenter will be given three minutes and must fill out a form and give it to the commission coordinator before the meeting.

Committee meetings of the Forensic Science Commission are being held in secret, including a committee evaluating the Todd Willingham arson investigation which met yesterday. Death penalty activist Scott Cobb (of Texas Moratorium Network) emailed FSC coordinator Leigh Tomlin to ask:



I heard your voice mail that the Complaint Screening Committee and the Investigative Committee on the Willingham/Willis Case held meetings yesterday in Dallas. When and where were they held? I didn’t see any meeting notice posted on the website. I only knew about it because I had read in the Houston Chronicle that it was going to be held next Thursday. Did the Commission provide a public notice before the meetings were held? How can the public be aware of when these meetings are going to be held in the future? Are there minutes available of the meetings yesterday?

Tomlin replied with a single sentence: “The meetings were not public meetings.”

They could be public, of course, at the discretion of the commission and the chair. But the new rules Chairman John Bradley rammed throughat the commission’s last meeting allow him to opt to have closed sessions.

Texas Moratorium Network plans to attend the April 23 meeting and we encourage members of the public who wish to make comments to the commission to attend also. The commission needs to hear that the public wants them to speed up the process of investigating the Todd Willingham case and discussing the report given to the commission by Dr Craig Beyler, so that Texas can determine whether faulty forensic science lead to the wrongful conviction and execution of an innocent person.
Rick Casey expects no major progress in the investigation until after the November election. He says in his Houston Chronicle column today:




The commission just posted its agenda for next week’s meeting, again drawn up by Bradley though this time honoring some suggestions from commissioners. The first item: approval of Bradley’s nominations for a number of committees, including an “investigative panel” for the Willingham case.
For that three-member panel, Bradley called his own number. The other two are Dr. Nizam Peerwani of the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office and Sarah Kerrigan, the Scotland Yard-trained head of the forensic science graduate program at Sam Houston State University. Peerwani is one of Perry’s new appointees. Kerrigan has been critical of Bradley’s leadership.

Little progress expected

The group’s first meeting is set for next Thursday, the day before the commission’s meeting. Since it is scheduled for just two hours and is not expected to hear from Beyler or any other witnesses, don’t look for it to advance the process much.
Bradley said he had planned to have the commission question Beyler at the October meeting, hear from critics of his report at the February meeting and then produce a final commission report by the spring or summer.
He said the nine members of the commission, a much smaller body than most congressional committees, were comfortable handling the matter as a whole.
If Bradley wanted to press the matter, I suppose he could push the investigative panel to produce a report by the July meeting and take action then or at the October meeting.
But to expect that, I suspect, would be doubly naive.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast wrote a post critical of Bradley for creating the new three-person committee for the Willingham case instead of allowing the full commission to deal with it and for appointing himself as one of the members. Henson also suggested how the other commission members should handle the situation by making a motion to reconsider.
If one believes – as admittedly I do – that the Governor ousted his old appointees last fall and replaced them with Bradley and Co. for the purpose of scuttling the Willingham inquiry until after the election, then these new rules and committee assignments set them up admirably to accomplish the task. Particularly telling was the chairman’s brazen decision to assign himself to the committee assessing the Willingham case. From the Startlegram: “The notion that he would be on this particular committee in light of everything that has gone on in the last year is particularly inappropriate,” said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. “A suspicious mind would be concerned about nefarious activities.”

Burnam’s right about Bradley and the appearance of neutrality. The Williamson County DA has already been sharply, publicly critical of the arson expert commissioned to investigate the lack of scientific rigor in the evidence presented at the Willingham trial. Bradley even tried to prevent the scientist from testifying before a legislative committee that requested his views on the role of expert testimony unrelated to the case.

What’s more, a second member of the three-person committee, Dr. Peerwani, was also appointed last fall after the Governor interceded tochange the direction of the commission. So two of the three committee members evaluating the Willingham case were people who, by all appearances, were appointed to the Commission primarily to impede the investigation, not get to the bottom of the matter. Given that, there’s a decent chance the thing never gets voted out of committee – that’s what I’d do if I just wanted to kill it.

That’s why, IMO someone on the commission should bone up on their parliamentary procedure and make a “motion to reconsider” at their next meeting later this month, because they were sold a pig in a poke. The Commission made the decision to create this new committee structure based on false pretenses, believing it wouldn’t apply to pending cases. I was liveblogging the hearing at the time, and here’s how I recorded the exchange on whether the Willingham case would go through the new committee process:




Dr. Kerrigan asked whether these rules apply to pending cases or new ones. Good question! Bradley said new or recent cases would be affected but not those already in the pipeline. A commissioner asked particularly whether cases where they’d already spent money on outside consultants would now have to go through the new process. Bradley said “no.”
Later, though, just before the meeting ended:
Bradley backtracked after the rules passed to say old cases like Todd Willingham’s in fact will go through his new committee process. That’s a complete 180-degree flip from what he told the commission members twenty minutes ago, back when Commissioner Kerrigan told the chair her vote depended on his answer.
The next day, in a post reviewing the meeting, I accused Bradley of:
Dissembling: When a commissioner told the chairman her vote hinged on whether old cases already in the pipeline – including ones where the Commission had already paid outside consultants (there are only two) – would be subjected to the new committee process, Bradley said no, they would not. After the vote, when the meeting had nearly ended, Bradley insisted that Willingham’s case must go through “part of” the new committee process. If he’d been honest about that during the debate, IMO a majority of commissioners present wouldn’t have supported his rules.

That’s sufficient reason to initiate a motion to reconsider, which is allowable under Robert’s Rules if the motion is made by anyone – say, Dr. Kerrigan or her allies on the board – who voted for the rules at the last meeting. I think the Commission should reconsider and clarify the rules to have pending, longstanding cases bypass this new committee, which is what they were told would happen before they voted to create it.

April 23, 2010 Meeting of Texas Forensic Science Commission in Irving, Texas

By , March 30, 2010

The Texas Forensic Science Commission is scheduled to meet on the morning of April 23, 2010 at the Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas, 221 E. Las Colinas Blvd., Irving, TX 75039, Hotel Phone: (972) 556-0800. At the last meeting in January in Harlingen, the Commission did not discuss the Todd Willingham case, but they are expected to discuss it to some extent on April 23.

Jan 29 Meeting of Texas Forensic Science Commission

By , January 8, 2010

The Texas Forensic Science Commission, whose review of the controversial case of Cameron Todd Willingham was delayed when Perry replaced all of his appointees on the commission, has scheduled a Jan. 29 meeting in Harlingen.’

Rick Perry and John Bradley are continuing the political cover up of the Willingham investigation by holding the next meeting of the Texas Forensic Science Commission in Harlingen on Jan 29 instead of holding it in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or Austin where interested people and media would be more likely to attend.

The agenda has not been posted.

January 29th, 2010, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Courtyard by Marriott

1725 W. Filmore Ave.

Harlingen, Texas 78550

Texas Monthly Video of Interview with Ernest Willis Talking about Todd Willingham: “I believe Texas killed an innocent man.”

By , October 26, 2009

Texas Monthly’s Michael Hall has a video interview with Ernest Willis, an innocent man who was sentenced to death in Texas for setting an arson fire that was later determined to have been an accidental fire. Ernest was released in 2004, just eight months after Todd Willingham was executed. A couple of weeks after Ernest was released Texas Moratorium Network sent him $1,000 donated by our members who wanted to help him a little with some cash after his release, because the State of Texas on the day of his release gave him just $100, 10 days of medication.

The transcript of the Texas Monthly interview is below:

You’re one of the only people to know what it’s like to be an innocent man on death row, but everybody else thinks you’re guilty. What did that feel like to you? When you had those two days left—we’re trying to put ourselves in the mind of [Cameron Todd Willingham] and what he was going through. What did that feel like?

Like I said, you know, I had prepared myself for it because I know on Texas death row very few people get off of Texas death row alive. And I had myself prepared pretty well for if that time come, I would just lay down and go to sleep and that would be it. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I wouldn’t be hollering and screaming. I don’t really know what my last words would be. I don’t know whether I would have said, “Well, you’re killing an innocent man” or what. But I can only imagine what Todd Willingham was going through because I come within two days of execution myself. But to be strapped down on that gurney it’s hard to say what a person would say. I know that I wouldn’t be rambunctious and yelling and all that because I prepared myself for that. But at the same time it would be really, really tough because you spend all these years knowing that you’re innocent. And that’s the hard part of being in there. If I would have been guilty of this crime, I could have took it real easy. It wouldn’t have bothered me like it did. And Todd’s case was so similar to mine—I didn’t know Todd really well, but I had talked to him several times out on the rec [recreation] yard. We discussed a little bit about our cases and found out they was nearly identical. I believe in my heart and soul that he was an innocent man. I believe Texas killed an innocent man.

The thing of it is I could have been in the same position he was in but I had the New York attorneys and had the capital to do all that. All he had was these appointed attorneys and they don’t get enough money to bring forth what it takes. If he could have hung on just three or four or five more months he would have been in the same shape I was—he would have walked out of there a free man. Because he had the same evidence I had. There was very little—you know, of course, the prosecutors make us look like animals and all this stuff. I’ve been out five years now and I’ve had no problems. I’ve started my own business. I retired about two years ago. I think I’ve been a productive person ever since I got out. I’ve helped a lot of people. With the money I got I was able to help my kids and [ex-wife] Verilyn’s kids and do a lot of things I wanted to do.

I know Governor Perry is trying to sweep this under the carpet, like hey, he was guilty as sin. Well all of us does things. They called him a monster and everything; they called me a monster. That’s the way district attorneys do. They’re exempt from prosecution. The only way the death penalty can ever be fair is to hold these district attorneys liable for the things they do. They drugged me during my trial, and I’m sure that the district attorney had something to do with that. I’m sure he ordered the medication, and I was like a zombie the whole way through my trial. But unless you have the capital and they do something about these district attorneys, it will never be that way. I mean, they can say and do whatever they want to do and they don’t have to worry about lawsuits and prosecution or anything. It needs to start there. It needs to follow up with enough money for representation. I mean, these lawyers—there are a lot of good lawyers out there. They get $20,000 or $30,000 per case. I mean, hell, you can’t ever hire an expert witness for that. It’s not a fair situation. If you have money—that’s the difference between me and Todd. I had money backing me up. Just think, if I hadn’t had no more time than Todd Willingham had they would have killed me before I could prove my innocence. It takes a long time. Even after you get the representation and money to fight this thing and dig up whatever it takes to prove your innocence. I would have been in the same shape he was. I wouldn’t be here today.

What should Governor Perry do?

I really think Governor Perry should own up to it and say, “Hey, we made a mistake.” What Governor Perry is worried about, they killed an innocent man on his watch and he’s afraid he might not get reelected. He needs to own up to it. They know that if they own up to it there’s a big lawsuit there. They’re worried about that. And he’s worried about his own hide because governors are elected. It’s like Ori White, the prosecutor that testified at my expunction hearing and he said, “Hey, the man’s innocent.” How many district attorneys or governors do you know that are going to get up there and say that? Perry needs to just own up to it and say, “Hey, we did. We killed an innocent man. And I think we need to put a moratorium on this right now, study this thing, and see what we need to do to fix this.”

To start with, just like I said: Start with the district attorney. After you finish with the district attorney, try to get more money for representation. The attorneys that handled my case worked on my case for 12 years; they spent $5 million. I know the state of Texas can’t produce like that but give them enough money where they can hire experts and do a little digging and find out the facts on the case. You know, I’m sure that most people on death row are guilty. But when I left death row I could say in my heart I thought there were at least five people that were innocent. And, you know, I haven’t named no names because I don’t know how these people would feel about me bringing their situation up.

But I think Governor Perry needs to do that right thing. We have these seven experts. My case was identical to his. He’s just trying to let it go by. And it’s not going to hush up. I’m not going to hush up. People that care about the death penalty and the people that don’t know about the death penalty need to be informed. Most people—they believe in the death penalty; they don’t know anything about it. But once in a while it strikes close to home. And then they realize this is really a dirty deal. Anyone can be walking down the street and be in the wrong place at the right time. And they can put—just like on mine—everything was circumstantial evidence. The district attorney gets up there and says, “This is the way we think it happened.” And that’s not the way it happened. How can a civilized country like America sentence men to death on circumstantial evidence like that? It’s not right.

Governor Perry, he needs to step up to the plate and admit we made a mistake. And this thing is not going to go away. It’s not going to go away. He thinks, you know, eventually it will last a little while and then it will go away but we’re not going to let it go away. It’s not going to die down—step up to the plate and do your job.

A TALE OF TWO TEXAS CASES

EXECUTED: Cameron Willingham, executed in Texas in 2004 for an arson that killed his three children. He steadfastly maintained his innocence.

FREED: Ernest Willis, freed from death row in Texas in 2004 after the arson investigation that led to his conviction was discredited.

There are many similarities between these two alledged arson cases from Texas. The main difference is that one resulted in an execution, the other in the inmate being freed.

Some similarities in the cases:

  • Both convictions were based upon the theory that accelerants were used, indicating that the fires were intentionally set.

  • Both convictions were based on speculative interpretations of “crazed glass” that was found at the crime scene. The splintered glass was originally believed to be caused by an accelerant spray. However, crazed glass may also occur when cold water that is used to put out a fire hits hot glass.

  • The deputy state fire marshal, Manuel Vasquez, testified to similar conclusions in both cases.

  • The convictions were only five years apart (Willingham in 1987, Willis in 1992). Both were appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and both were denied.

  • In both cases, reinvestigations of the evidence by fire expert Gerald Hurst stated that the burn patterns and residue were consistent with “flash over,” a phenomenon unique to electrical fires, rather than being attributable to arson.

  • According to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, Wilingham’s and Willis’ cases were “nearly identical” based upon investigations by Hurst and Louisiana fire chief Kendall Ryland. Then- Texas deputy fire marshall Edward Cheever has admitted, since the Hurst investigation and Willingham’s execution, that “we were still testifying to things that aren’t accurate today. They were true then, but they aren’t now… Hurst was pretty much right on. … We know now not to make those same assumptions.” (Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2004)

  • One key difference in the two cases was that Ernest Willis was represented in his federal appeals by the high-profile law firm of Latham & Watkins, which represented Willis without charge.
  • Former Texas Governor Mark White Says It May Be Time to Do Away With Death Penalty

    By , October 18, 2009

    The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Former Texas Governor Mark White who was involved in the executions of 20 people:

    says it may be time for Texas to do away with the death penalty.

    The death penalty is no longer a deterrent to murder, and long stays for the condemned on death row shows justice is not swift, White said.

    More than anything, he said, he has grown concerned that the system is not administered fairly and that there are too many risks of executing innocent people.

    White said the state needs to take a serious look at replacing the death penalty with life without parole.

    “There is a very strong case to be made for a review of our death penalty statutes and even look at the possibility of having life without parole so we don’t look up one day and determined that we as the state of Texas have executed someone who is in fact innocent,” said White.

    Perry controversy

    Current Gov. Rick Perry is facing national criticism for not granting a 30-day stay in 2004 to Cameron Todd Willingham after an arson expert raised questions about the house fire that killed his three children.

    Perry ignited the controversy recently by replacing members of the Texas Forensics Commission that were looking into the science behind the arson investigation in the Willingham case.

    Perry responded by calling Willingham a “monster” and saying he has no doubt of his guilt.

    Noting that he does not know all the facts in the Willingham case, White said it shows how forensic science is evolving. White said there also has been at least one case of a death row inmate being cleared by modern DNA testing. That was the case of Michael Blair, a child sex offender who was convicted of killing Ashley Estell after a playground abduction, but exonerated when DNA testing indicated someone else likely was involved.

    “That’s two examples of why I think the system is so unreliable it creates an unnecessary possibility that an innocent person would be executed in Texas. And I don’t think anybody in Texas wants that to happen,” White said.

    Keller case

    The former governor also said he was upset by the incident in 2007 when the Court of Criminal Appeals was closed to an inmate’s efforts to file a last-minute appeal based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that came down earlier in the day of his execution. That case has resulted in a State Judicial Conduct Commission investigation of Presiding Judge Sharon Keller.

    “That was a horrible procedural error,” White said.

    White as attorney general in 1982 represented the state in the first execution after the death penalty was reinstated. As governor, he oversaw 19 executions.

    White said during his tenure as governor, then-Attorney General Jim Mattox was in Huntsville and he remained by the telephone in case an execution needed to be halted at the last minute. White said none of the cases he handled involved claims of innocence.

    White said he is not critical of Perry’s handling of the Willingham case and would not second guess him.

    Tenth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty
    October 24, 2009 at 2 PM
    Texas Capitol South Steps 11th and Congress
    Austin, Texas

    Speakers and other confirmed attendees at the march will include two innocent, now-exonerated death row prisoners (Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty), Jeff Blackburn (Chief Counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas), Eugenia Willingham (mother of Todd Willingham), Jeanette Popp (a mother whose daughter was murdered but who asked the DA not to seek the death penalty), Elizabeth Gilbert (the penpal of Todd Willingham who first pushed his innocence and helped his family find a fire expert to investigate), Walter Reaves (the last attorney for Todd Willingham, who fought for him through the execution and continues to fight to exonerate him), Terri Been whose brother Jeff Wood is on death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone, and Anna Terrell the mother of Reginald Blanton who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Oct 27 three days after the march, plus others to be announced.

    The march starts at 2 PM on October 24 at the Texas Capitol. We will gather at the Texas Capitol at the gates leading into the Capitol on the sidewalk at 11th Street, march down Congress Avenue to 6th street, then back to the South Steps of the Capitol for a rally to abolish the death penalty.

    Sign the petition to 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.

    Todd Willingham and Rick Perry’s Cover up Could Impact on Race for Governor

    By , October 15, 2009

    The Dallas Morning News has an interesting article today on the possible political fallout that may result from the Todd Willingham case and Rick Perry’s cover up. The article is by Lynn Woolley, who is a Texas-based talk show host streaming from www.BeLogical.com. He may be heard live in Dallas-Fort Worth on KVCE-AM (1160) at 9 a.m. For the entire article click here.

    Excerpt:

    It is becoming apparent that there is a possibility that neither Rick Perry nor Kay Bailey Hutchison may be the Republican nominee for governor of Texas. Both of them have issues that must be cleared up – and soon – or other big names are going to enter the race.

    Perry is smack in the middle of a developing controversy over the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham – indeed a very bad man, but a man who may not have started the fire that killed his three children. The strange thing is that the question of Willingham’s guilt is not central to the governor’s problem. Of course, if Willingham did not set the fire – that’s huge. But if Rick Perry interfered with the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s investigation into the case – that’s monumental.

    There will be an investigation, so imagine this: What if the commission concludes that Willingham was innocent – and the voting public concludes that Perry’s move to replace the chairman and three other members of the commission might have been a blocking tactic? The Hutchison campaign is already saying, “It gives the appearance of a cover-up.”

    This sordid affair might prove very useful to Hutchison in her campaign to unseat the governor, except for the fact that she seems to have no fire in the belly to pursue the race. In a radio interview with WBAP’s Mark Davis, she said she isn’t sure when she will leave the Senate to pursue the governor’s race full time. She isn’t certain about what Congress will do with health care, and she wants to “stay and fight with every bone in my body against a government takeover.”

    And we all thought she wanted to be governor.

    Previously, Hutchison had said she would resign from the Senate by December. But she also had stated that she wanted to remain to fight cap-and-trade legislation.

    So she’s going to resign unless she doesn’t, and she’s going stay in the Senate to fight Obama’s health care and energy bills unless she returns to Texas full time to run for governor. Are we confused yet?

    Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott are waiting and watching. They know that if Perry’s problem with the Willingham case blows up on him that Hutchison could easily take the nomination. Well, unless she doesn’t want it.

    Sign the petition to 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.

    CNN Anderson Cooper 360 to Report Again Tonight on Todd Willingham and Rick Perry

    By , October 13, 2009

    Tune in tonight to CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 for more on the Todd Willingham case from Randi Kaye. Tonight AC360° at 10 p.m. ET., 9 p.m. Central Time.

    Below is the report that CNN AC360 ran on October 2.

    Sign the petition to 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.

    Rick Perry Hiding Possible Smoking Gun in Todd Willingham Case

    By , October 11, 2009

    According to an article in today’s Houston Chronicle, Texas Governor Rick Perry is refusing to release documents that could show whether or not he considered or even read the information sent to him on the day of the execution of Todd Willingham informing him that there was new evidence casting doubt on Willingham’s guilt and raising the question of whether Texas was about to execute an innocent man.

    We must put pressure on Perry to release all information dealing with the Willingham execution. Rick Perry is continuing to hide information and cover up whether Texas executed an innocent person. The same information that Perry is now refusing to release has been released before. In 2003, there was an article by Alan Berlow in The Atlantic (“Texas Clemency Memos”) that discussed and contained copies of execution day memos sent to Governor George W Bush from his staff, including many written by his legal counsel Alberto Gonzales. According to Berlow:

    Gonzales never intended his summaries to be made public. Almost all are marked CONFIDENTIAL and state, “The privileges claimed include, but are not limited to, claims of Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Work-Product Privilege, and the Internal Memorandum exception to the Texas Public Information Act.” I obtained the summaries and related documents, which have never been published, after the Texas attorney general ruled that they were not exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Public Information Act.

    Call Perry’s office at 512 463 1782 and demand that he release all information.

    Excerpt from the Chronicle:

    In a letter sent Feb. 14, three days before Willingham was scheduled to die, Perry had been asked to postpone the execution. The condemned man’s attorney argued that the newly obtained expert evidence showed Willingham had not set the house fire that killed his daughters, 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron, two days before Christmas in 1991.

    On Feb. 17, the day of the execution, Perry’s office got the five-page faxed report at 4:52 p.m., according to documents the Houston Chronicle obtained in response to a public records request.

    But it’s unclear from the records whether he read it that day. Perry’s office has declined to release any of his or his staff’s comments or analysis of the reprieve request.

    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.”

    A few minutes after 5 p.m., defense lawyer Walter M. Reaves Jr. said he received word that the governor would not intervene. At 6:20 p.m. Willingham was executed after declaring: “I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit.”

    Summaries of gubernatorial reviews of execution cases previously were released as public records in Texas, most recently under former Gov. George W. Bush. Yet Perry’s office has taken the position that any documents showing his own review and staff discussion of the Willingham case are not public — a claim the Chronicle disputes.

    Plan to attend the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24 in Austin at the Texas Capitol. We plan to deliver the petition that day. Members of Todd Willingham’s family are expected to attend the march and rally.

    Todd Willingham was executed for arson/murder on February 17, 2004. He professed his innocence from his arrest until he was strapped down on the execution gurney. Now, we know for certain that he was telling the truth. On August 25, 2009, Dr Craig Beyler, the investigator hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the Willingham case, released his report in which he found that “a finding of arson could not be sustained” by a scientific analysis (Read the report here). He concluded that the fire in the Willingham case was accidental and not arson. In fact, there was no arson, so there was no crime. Texas executed an innocent person. The proven execution of an innocent person should mean the end of the death penalty in the United States.

    Send Perry an email by filling out the email form on his website.

    You can also send Perry a letter in the postal mail to the mailing address:

    Office of the Governor
    P.O. Box 12428
    Austin, Texas 78711-2428

    You can also call him on the phone and leave him a message:

    Information and Referral Hotline [for Texas callers] :
    (800) 843-5789

    Citizen’s Opinion Hotline [for Texas callers] :
    (800) 252-9600

    Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers] :
    (512) 463-1782

    Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST] :
    (512) 463-2000

    Citizen’s Assistance Telecommunications Device
    If you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD),
    call 711 to reach Relay Texas

    Office of the Governor Fax:
    (512) 463-1849

    More background information from CNN:

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