The evidence keeps coming in.
Lawyers representing Gov. Rick Perry on two occasions grilled Austin lawyer Sam Bassett on the activities of his Texas Forensic Science Commission, telling him its probe into a controversial Corsicana arson case was inappropriate and opining that the hiring of a nationally known fire expert was a “waste of state money,” the ousted commission chairman said Tuesday.
Bassett, who served two two-year terms as commission chairman before Perry replaced him on Sept. 30, said he was so concerned about what he considered “pressure” from the lawyers that he conferred with an aide to state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who reassured him “the commission was doing what it’s supposed to do.”
As Bassett outlined the commission’s investigations of the Willingham case and that of Brandon Lee Moon, an El Paso man wrongly convicted of sexual assault, Cabrales told the chairman “he didn’t think those kinds of investigations were the kind contemplated by the statute,” Bassett said.
“I think he said something along the lines that we should be more forward-looking, more current rather than examining older cases,” Basset said. Later in the discussion, Bassett said, he was told the Moon investigation was appropriate, but the Willingham case was not.
Bassett later reviewed the statute, and, feeling vindicated, sent a copy to the governor’s lawyers along with a copy of the complaint that prompted the Willingham investigation.
At one point, the lawyers asked Bassett how the panel chose Beyler to review the Willingham case. Bassett said he explained state regulations, requiring the soliciting of bids, were followed. When Wiley asked how much Beyler had been paid, Bassett said he responded, “$30,000, maybe a little more.”
Wiley then remarked, “That sounds like a waste of state money,” according to Bassett.
Bassett said he was a novice in the role of commission chairman and was uncertain how to interpret the lawyers’ remarks.
“I was surprised at the level of involvement that they wanted to have in commission decision-making,” he said.
It may have been a surprise at the time, but it should be clear to all by now what was going on. Given that meddling in the affairs of others seems to be the Rick Perry modus operandi these days, I’d say that his initial explanation of this all being “business as usual” is quite apt, though I daresay 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 the bad cop as well.
And with the evidence comes the attack.
The governor, speaking with reporters after a speech at the Texas Association of Realtors today, made some shocking comments.
Quorum Report was there and has a dispatch.
I’ll take Perry’s assertions one at a time.
“Willingham was a monster. This was a guy who murdered his three children, who tried to beat his wife into an abortion so that he wouldn’t have those kids. Person after person has stood up and testified to facts of this case that quite frankly you all aren’t covering. And I would suggest to you that you go back and look at the record here because this is a bad man.”
This parrots the prosecution’s arguments in the case. There was no motive for Willingham to kill his kids. So at trial they tried to paint him as a “monster.” Some of their evidence for this was Willingham’s rock posters that contained violent images, according to the must-read New Yorker story.
So Perry’s argument is basically “He was a bad man! He must have been guilty of something! We’re allowed to kill him for that!” I don’t think there’s really anything I can say to that.
Perry also asserts that:
[T]hat study that Mr. (Craig) Beyler came forward with is nothing more than propaganda by the anti-death penalty people across this country.”
This statement would be funny if we weren’t talking about a life and death issue here.
Craig Beyler is one of the preeminent fire experts in the nation, which is why the Perry-appointed Forensic Science Commission contracted Beyler to study the case. He’s a scientist, not an activist. He works with Hughes and Associates, an engineering and fire protection firm in Baltimore.
This case has become shrouded in death-penalty politics, but it’s still about the science of detecting arson.
Clearly, he fails to take into account that well-known liberal bias that reality has.
I remain skeptical that this is really going to damage Rick Perry with the GOP base, but the more it drags out and becomes apparent that it’s basically a banana republic-level attempt to cover up wrongdoing that is rooted much more in indifference than actual malice – in other words, all in the service of refusing to own up to a mistake, albeit a lethal one – the more one thinks that he will ultimately be damaged. I sure as hell hope so, anyway. TPM, BOR, and PDiddie have more, while Grits discusses a related topic.