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.
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.
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] :
Citizen’s Opinion Hotline [for Texas callers] :
Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers] :
Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST] :
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:
More background information from CNN: