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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Innocence is no excuse in death penalty cases

I hope everyone is following the controversy in Texas over Governor Rick Perry's attempt to cover up his role in the execution of an apparently innocent man, Cameron T. Willingham, accused of killing his three children in an arson fire that turned out not to be arson.

Here's the news:

Three weeks ago Mr. Perry replaced the chairman and two other members of the State Forensic Science Commission, which was about to hold hearings on the evidence in the case. The new chairman, a close ally of the governor, promptly canceled a hearing at which a second, independent arson expert was to testify. The commission’s expert, Craig L. Beyler of Baltimore, had concluded in a lengthy report that the evidence did not prove that Mr. Willingham set the fire that killed his three daughters in 1991.

Since then, the governor has found himself on the defensive, with editorial writers, columnists and political opponents in both parties accusing him of trying to protect his future at the expense of determining the truth.

I guess executing innocent people is too much even for death-penalty happy Texas. Or maybe Perry is just guilty of giving the death penalty a bad name:

So popular is the death penalty here that Mr. Perry’s main opponent in next year’s Republican primary for governor, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, has taken the rather novel approach of suggesting that his actions have lent ammunition to opponents of capital punishment.

“The only thing Rick Perry’s actions have accomplished is giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty,” she said in a statement. “We should never do anything to create a cloud of controversy over it with actions that look like a cover-up.”


But I would like to think that maybe some Texans actually have a conscience, even if their governor does not.

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