Governor Perry Doubles Down on Willingham

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, CrimeLeave a Comment

This story is starting to get national attention.  Presumably, that's why Perry said what he said:

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday defended his actions in the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, calling him a “monster” and a “bad man” who murdered his children.

Specifics?  Sure…

“Willingham was a monster,” the governor said. “Here's a guy who murdered his three children, who tried to beat his wife into an abortion so he wouldn't have those kids. Person after person has stood up and testified to facts of this case that, quite frankly, you all are not covering.”

Willingham, he said, showed how bad he was on the day of his execution.

“This is a bad man. This is a guy who in the death chamber in his last breath spews an obscenity-laced triad (sic) against his wife,” Perry said.

This is utter bullshit.

First of all, the prosecutor claimed that he beat his wife to abort his kids; his wife denied that at trail (and she really ought to know).  Did he beat his wife other times?  Yes, the evidence suggests that.  But is that a fact of the case?  Emphatically, no.  Neither does swearing to your wife while being put to death.  (She insisted he was innocent, until he was found guilty, and then she changed her mind, and failed to assist him for over a decade as he exhausted his appeals).  Frankly, if I were an innocent man sitting in death row, I might be inclined to cuss as well.

But here's the thing — I don't care if Willingham was a bad husband.  It is entirely irrelevant as to whether he commited arson to kill his children.  There was (as I have blogged before) no eyewitness and the forensic evidence (we now know) indicated that the fire was not deliberately set.

This seems to be a thing with the Texas criminal justice system: if you are a bad man, you must have done everything that the prosecutor says you did.  It's been around a long time — go rent (if you can find it) The Thin Blue Line.  An alarming number of people have been executed in Texas — before their innocence is discovered.

Calling Willingham a "monstor" and a "bad man" is not evidence of guilt.  Perry is grasping here, because he knows he screwed up and allowed an innocent man to die.