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Perry sneers at Willingham evidence

This is exactly what I expect from Rick Perry.

Governor Rick Perry today strenuously defended the execution of a Corsicana man whose conviction for killing his daughters in a house fire hinged on an arson finding that top experts call junk science.

“I’m familiar with the latter-day supposed experts on the arson side of it,” Perry said, making quotation marks with his fingers to underscore his skepticism.

Even without proof that the fire was arson, he added, the court records he reviewed before the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 showed “clear and compelling, overwhelming evidence that he was in fact the murderer of his children.”

These were the governor’s first direct comments on a case that has drawn withering criticism from top fire experts.

Death penalty critics view the Willingham case as a study in shoddy – or at least outdated – science, and they consider it the first proven instance in 35 years of an executed man being proven innocent after death.

“Governor Perry refuses to face the fact that Texas executed an innocent man on his watch. Literally all of the evidence that was used to convict Willingham has been disproven – all of it,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law in New York that has championed the case. “He is clearly refusing to face reality.”

Well, yeah. He has a Republican primary to win, you know, and reality is a hindrance in that race. Seriously, this is all classic Perry: the arrogance, the disdain for anything remotely intellectual, the refusal to consider the possibility of error, the bizarre belief that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles actually plays a role as reviewer of the evidence, the “jury’s verdict is final” mentality – if only he felt that way about civil verdicts as well. The one thing I find curious about this is the contrast to the case of Timothy Cole. I guess that bandwagon was big enough that he felt it necessary to hop aboard. I just hope that the Texas Forensic Science Commission is sufficiently independent that the Governor’s opinion in the Willingham case won’t affect their final report. We’ll see what he’ll have to say about that if they do the right thing. The Contrarian has more.

UPDATE: Grits has a good question for Perry.

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2 Comments

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