No more Texas governors for president

“Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.” - Molly Ivins
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Posts tagged "cameron todd willingham"

From the Texas Moratorium Network:

Perry/Willingham 2012. We can send you the file so you can print your own copies of this sign to take to wherever Rick Perry is campaigning. We can also mail some to you, but it may be easier if you need multiple copies to carry at a Rick Perry appearance if you just print them locally. To print the size seen in this photo, 13 x 19, costs about 79 cents each, could be less or more depending where you are and what printer you can find.

When MSNBC’s Brian Williams asked Rick Perry during a recent GOP debate if he ever worried that his state had executed an innocent man on Perry’s watch, the three-term Texas governor didn’t hesitate: “No sir, I’ve never struggled with that at all.” Maybe he should have: As Steve Mims and Joe Bailey detail in their new documentary, Incendiary, the state’s 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his two children was based in large part on arson science that had been thoroughly rejected by the scientific community—something that Perry had been informed of before the “ultimate justice” was served.

Inspired by David Grann’s masterful 2009 New Yorker story about the case, the Austin filmmakers set out to chronicle the flawed forensics behind the execution. They soon found themselves in the middle of a pitched political battle involving Perry’s apparent maneuvering to put a thumb on the scales with the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Mims and Bailey spoke recently with Mother Jones about the Willingham case, arson science, and how they navigated the politics of capital punishment.

Texas leads the country in executions, and Rick Perry holds the record tally. Go us! [/snark]

Over the past decade, the Perry administration has withheld information in response to some 100 open records requests, instead seeking review by the Texas attorney general’s office. In two cases in the past year, Perry’s office acknowledges it failed to meet legal deadlines for responding to the requests, or otherwise delayed in violation of well-established procedures outlined in the Texas Public Information Act.

Most of the withheld documents involved contracts, bidding and oversight of programs in which state money flows to entrepreneurs, privately held companies and universities from Perry’s two economic development funds, the Emerging Technology Fund and the Texas Enterprise Fund.

In contrast to Bush’s extensive appointments records, Perry has left the country without it being reflected on his public schedule. Reporters learned he took a 2004 trip to the Bahamas with San Antonio businessman James Leininger, a Perry campaign donor, and anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist after he was spotted scuba-diving by a tourist. The trip didn’t appear on his schedule released under the state Public Information Act.

After the Bahamas trip, newspapers requested and got copies of the expenses paid for Perry’s Department of Public Safety security detail — and noted that the state picked up the tab for scuba equipment to accompany the governor. Since then, Perry has blocked public viewing of his security detail’s travel expense reports.

Probable presidential candidate Rick Perry, like other Texas governors, has a history of executing tons of people. The most famous case is that of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed under Perry for burning down his home with his three children inside, even though there’s significant evidence that he didn’t do it. How will Perry ever get past this in a presidential primary? Trick question! He doesn’t have to “get past” anything, because Republican primary voters like him for doing this.

Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man – Cameron Todd Willingham – and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.”

The [Texas] Tribune sat down with Bassett on Thursday to discuss his views on why the governor replaced him, his suspicions that political motivations were behind it, why he believes the commission had the authority to conduct its investigation, and why he argues it is critical for the Texas justice system that the commission finish what it started under his leadership.

And this is where Perry fails as a Christian, by any Christian standard. Christianity does not exist for the innocent; it exists for the guilty — for the hope that the guilty may be redeemed. But Rick Perry does not live for that hope, either for the condemned or for himself. Seven years ago, a man named Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas for lighting the fire that killed his three children. His is a famous case, the subject of a documentary, a Frontline report, and a New Yorker article by David Grann that all ably detailed the wishful thinking and willful misinterpretations of the arson investigators who testified for the prosecution. The evidence that landed Willingham in the death chamber has never been able to hold up under scrutiny, and activists opposed to the death penalty have offered its flaws as proof that the death penalty can never be applied without the possibility of error. And, of course, the application of the death penalty with the possibility of error is a grotesquerie, a moral monstrosity that has no place in a putatively “Christian nation.”

More to the point, it has no place in the presidential campaign of a putatively “Christian president” like Rick Perry.

And here’s the thing: Perry knows this.

Should a Christian politician like Rick Perry also be held to the standards of Christian conscience? And if he has failed to meet those standards, should he get a pass when he incorporates his Christianity into his campaign? The question of guilt and innocence as it pertains to the Texas death chamber is not merely a legal matter, much less a political one; it is a moral matter that is close to the heart of the Christian cause. That Rick Perry has done everything within his power to duck the question reveals a man who either does not have the courage of his convictions, or who only understands convictions that are friendly to the cause of his own ambition.

As Gov. Rick Perry touts his tough-on-crime policies on the national political stage, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham will continue to be scrutinized. Scientists have raised questions about whether Willingham set the blaze that killed his three daughters and led to his 2004 execution.

It’s not just that the science says Willingham is innocent of the crime he was accused of, it’s that the science says that there was no crime in the first place. And that’s precisely the matter that the Texas Forensic Science Commission was set to explore when Perry stepped in and put a stop to it.

he simple fact of the matter is, with all of the political reporters following Perry on the campaign trial, it seems that none have thought to put a question about Cameron Todd Willingham to Perry directly. This is despite the fact that death penalty issues have historical salience in presidential elections, despite the fact that the magnitude of the miscarriage of justice in the Willingham case is off the charts where physical science is concerned, despite the fact that Perry’s involvement reeks of political meddling, despite the fact that the matter has received rich coverage in the past and despite the fact that events of the past three weeks have been more than adequate to provide a springboard into the matter for cagey journalists. Or if they have, the news organizations for which they work haven’t found it worth the mention.

INCENDIARY: THE WILLINGHAM CASE is a fiscally sponsored project of the Austin Film Society. You can make a donation to this project using the form below. You will receive a letter acknowledging your gift to the Austin Film Society on behalf on the project. Since AFS is a non-profit organization, your donation may be deducted from your taxes as a charitable contribution under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code.

In 1991, Cameron Todd Willingham’s three daughters died in a Corsicana, Texas house fire. Tried and convicted for their arson murders, Willingham was executed in February 2004 despite overwhelming expert criticism of the prosecution’s arson evidence. Today, Willingham’s name has become a call for reform in the field of forensics and a rallying cry for the anti-death penalty movement; yet he remains an indisputable “monster” in the eyes of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ignored the science that could have saved Willingham’s life. Equal parts murder mystery, forensic investigation and political drama, INCENDIARY documents the haunted legacy of a prosecution built on “folklore.”
The movie, directed by recent UT law school graduate Joe Bailey Jr. and UT film professor Steve Mims, covers the science behind Willingham’s execution and shows in startling detail how Rick Perry manipulated the Texas Forensic Science Commission to keep a lid on the fact that he, in all probability, allowed an innocent man to be put to death.

With Perry recently taking a double digit lead in early Republican primary polls, it’s important that as many people as possible are made aware of one of his most egregious errors as governor of Texas.