Oct 2, 2009

Texas Murders Innocent, Now Covers Up

Update: Dallas Morning News: "Gov. Rick Perry looks like a desperate man with his decision to jettison the chairman of the state's forensic science panel."

The state of Texas executed an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, in 2004

Hey, if anyone wants to devise an index on the intelligence, scientific acuity and general enlightenment of American states, Texas is right down there with Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. So, no surprise here.

David Grann's piece in the New Yorker on Cameron Todd Willingham is a must read, reporting that the equivalent of witchcraft was used to convict and murder Willingham though a range of Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry were presented with scientific information exonerating Willingham before Texas decided to kill him. Maybe the Texas folks just couldn't understand the material.

Now, after the state murder, when the Texas Forensic Science Commission was to review the findings of arson expert Craig Beyler, who was hired by the commission to investigate and subsequently released a report blowing the whistle on Texas, Rick Perry this week summarily fired three members of the Commission that was seen as poised to rule in effect that Texas had executed an innocent man.

From Jeff Carlton at the Huffington Post:

DALLAS — A report concluding a faulty investigation led to a Texas man's execution won't be reviewed by a state board as planned Friday after Gov. Rick Perry abruptly removed three people from the panel, forcing the meeting's cancellation.

Perry, who has said the execution was appropriate, replaced the head of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and two of its eight other board members Wednesday. The upheaval on the commission came just 48 hours before it was to consider a report critical of the arson finding leading to Cameron Todd Willingham's execution for the deaths of his three daughters in a 1991 fire.

Baltimore-based arson expert Craig Beyler, who was hired by the commission, concluded the arson finding was scientifically unsupported and investigators at the scene had 'poor understandings of fire science.' His report has bolstered arguments from advocacy groups that Willingham was innocent and wrongly executed.

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