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Tim Cole advisory panel begins its work

The Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, which was created to much fanfare by the Lege this spring, begins its mission this week in the shadow of the Cameron Todd Willingham uproar.

Cole was wrongfully convicted in 1986 and died in prison 13 years later before being posthumously exonerated this year. His brother, Cory Session, also of Fort Worth, said he plans to cite the Willingham case when he addresses the panel.

“It’s hard to overlook the possibility that an innocent man was executed,” Session said. “Just like my brother Tim till the day he died, they both said, ‘I didn’t do it.’ We just can’t take it lightly anymore when somebody says they’re innocent.”

You’d think so, that’s for sure. Makes you wonder what might have happened with the Cole legislation if the Beyler report had hit the fan in February instead of August, though. There’s a million ways for bills to die without leaving any obvious fingerprints behind, after all. Sadly, I share Grits’ pessimism about the panel being able to do anything in this climate without interference from the Governor’s office. But I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, and Grits’ Day One report was quite hopeful, with Mary Ann Wiley, the Governor’s representative, sounding a lot of good notes. I still can’t quite shake my feelings of cynicism, but again, I hope I have to retract that some day. The Contrarian has more.

Speaking of our only Governor, he would really appreciate it if you would pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Perry has fought to keep his itinerary of upcoming meetings and appearances from public review. No e-mail he has written has been made public because he only uses a personal e-mail account, which he says is not used for state business. His executive staff keeps a schedule that destroys most of the e-mails it generates every seven days.

In the latest example, Perry has denied access to files he reviewed in July 2004 that convinced him that Willingham was justly convicted.

Recent governors have served four or five years, and the memos of their general counsel became public through archives. Perry has served for 10 years and is keeping his lawyer’s memos over that decade closed.

“Those memos are provided by the governor’s general counsel to the governor under attorney-client privilege,” press secretary Allison Castle said.

She objected to any characterization of the governor as secretive, saying, “The governor continues to promote transparency at all levels of government.”

He has worked to place state spending and budgets online and released his tax returns. But when it comes to his prospective travel, meetings and even whether he is out of state, he has won attorney general backing that allows him to withhold his schedule.

“Security is different in a post-9/11 world. Security is paramount,” Castle said.

Nevertheless, his fight to tightly hold information is contrasted to the White House, which routinely announces the president’s appearances and meetings, along with his travel schedule weeks in advance.

“From what we have seen, this governor seems to be much more inclined to make decisions and conduct business in the dark than in the light of day compared to previous governors,” said Keith Elkins, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, which fights for open government.

“I don’t know why he feels it’s absolutely necessary to keep from the public, for example, what his travel schedules are. Other governors did not have the need to do that,” he said.

Yes, well, other Governors – even the President! – aren’t Rick Perry. He’s so transparent he’s achieved invisibility. Like a ninja, except for the sword and the code of honor. Don’t even try to understand, your feeble mind has no hope of wrapping itself around the transparent aura of Rick Perry.

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  1. [...] not in the way he intended it to be. By the way, that’s the same Mary Ann Wiley who had nice things to say about the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. Clearly, she’s capable of playing [...]

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