Injustice Through Ignorance

Texas Governor Rick “Goodhair” Perry says that Cameron Todd Willingham is a “monster” and a “bad man” who murdered his children (Houston Chronicle). He is convinced that Willingham was guilty of his crime.

That’s good enough for me. If the Governor of Texas says someone is a monster, then dadgummit he’s a monster. Why is he convinced that he’s a monster?

Because “he murdered his three children [and] tried to beat his wife into an abortion so he wouldn’t have those kids.”

We know he murdered his three children because he’s a monster, and we know he’s a monster because he murdered his three children.

To be fair, that’s not quite all. There’s also that allegation that Willingham tried to beat his wife into a miscarriage (forgive Goodhair; he doesn’t know the difference. But he does know a monster. Like the good little Animal Science major he is, he’s not calling Willingham an animal.) This was not culpability evidence in Willingham’s trial—the jury didn’t get to hear about it when deciding Willingham’s guilt—and with good reason: it’s 403 as hell.

Also, “This is a bad man. This is a guy who in the death chamber in his last breath spews an obscenity-laced (tirade) against his wife.” Seriously: this is what those who don’t want to believe that Texas killed an innocent man are hanging their hats on: he cussed his wife out from the gurney, so he must be guilty.

What’s really going on, of course, is that we killed him, so he must be guilty. More specifically, Rick Perry signed off on his execution, and Rick Perry is a GWB-style Republican Who Never Makes Mistakes, so Willingham must be guilty.

So how about that unreliable snitch, Johnny Webb, who might have testified to something that he “misunderstood”? How about the thoroughly discredited “expert” testimony of Fogg and Vasquez (PDF)? Stuff like:

Neither the fire that killed the three Willingham children nor the fire that killed Elizabeth Grace Belue and Gail Joe Allison were incendiary fires.


The burning of the base plate below the threshold is precluded by the lack of access of air sufficient to produce flaming combustion. Thus, ignitable liquids would not be capable of producing the charring on the wood base plate.

“Anti-death penalty propaganda,” says Animal Scientist Goodhair. The safe money is on Rick Perry not having read and understood the Arson Review Committee’s report.

“Now surely you’re not saying the Supreme Court of the United States fouled up four times?” Perry said. The safe money is likewise on the Animal Scientist not being able to describe a single issue raised in any one of these appeals.

While all of this makes me miss Governor GWB’s intellectualism and wonder whether we could get Perry to secede all alone, it’s pretty harmless, right? Governor shooting off his mouth about something that he knows nothing about; another public official rationalizing his role in killing someone who didn’t need killing; happens every day; ho-hum what else?

What else is that Perry removed the defense lawyer who was the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which was to look into Willingham’s case, and replaced him with our old friend John Bradley, Williamson County District Attorney.

Now, Bradley consistently plays toward his constituents, who are unfortunately the same as the Animal Scientist’s (and GWB’s): scared white people. And scared white people don’t want those officials elected to keep them safe to show any signs of weakness, like admitting mistakes.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission‘s (motto: Justice Through Science—No, Seriously, Stop Laughing!) mission includes:

Investigating, in a timely manner, any allegation of professional negligence or misconduct that would substantially affect the integrity of the results of a forensic analysis conducted by an accredited laboratory, facility or entity.

To be fair, it doesn’t say anything about “competent” investigation or “unbiased” investigation. Which is good because, with Perry directing and Bradley starring, the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s “investigation” of the forensic analysis in Willingham’s case is shaping up to be nothing more than a show trial.

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0 responses to “Injustice Through Ignorance”

  1. Full disclosure: I’m one of the people who believes that there is a combination of the horribleness of the crime and the confidence that a given guy did it where it’s morally justifiable — albeit not morally requisite, although at time approaching that — to get that guy off the planet, without giving him a ride on a rocket. Eichmann, for example, easily met that standard, and — IMHO, and all — the crime Willingham was convicted of also, IMHO, does.

    But, I mean, WTF? There was at the time that Perry refused to sign a stay (or whatever the technical term is) ample evidence, approaching scientific certainty, that Willingham just plain didn’t do it, and even more evidence — reaching scientific certainty — that the jury was given substantial false information about how he supposedly did it but didn’t.

    That was horrible; Perry refused to stay the execution of what appears to be not merely a man who was unfairly convicted, but just plain didn’t do it. To try to cover it up by sticking a broomstick in the spokes of the investigation doesn’t make that sin any better, but even worse.

    Wish I had something clever to add, but I don’t. It’s shameful. The only good thing in it — and it’s not much — is that maybe this will open other DP supporters’ eyes to the possibility of how executing a guy who there’s ample reason to believe just didn’t do it has to be dealt with.

    And, as a less important matter: the people of Texas will have an opportunity to replace the bastard with somebody who has the opportunity to promise — and follow through — that he or she will not permit the execution of another person who there’s every good reason to believe just plain didn’t do it.

    That said, yeah: if he had murdered those kids that way, he would have been a monster. But he didn’t, and it’s demonstrable that he didn’t, and that really ought to matter. A lot.

  2. What you say in the beginning of the article is something I’ve been thinking a lot lately – why on Earth is the gravity of the crime ever used as a pleading device in a court of law?? The gravity of the crime should have NO importance until it is determined weather the accused person is the one who committed it or not.

    I have read some disturbing thing in the book Blink about how a jury can be influenced even unknowingly by the defended’s personality, even while actively trying to be impartial. Apparently, it is impossible to not be biased if you… are. Nobody and no group of people should ever have so much power to convict or kill someone else based on assumptions and dubious testimonials.

    I’m so happy to have found your blog. Maybe it will help me a little with all the frustration I am feeling towards the justice system (in all countries). Here, in Romania, there is no death penalty, luckily.

  3. Well, in this case, the cart was apparently put further and further behind the horse — there’s at least plenty of reason to believe what happened was a horrible accident of some sort, and not a crime at all. (Or, if it was a crime, a very different one than what Willingham was convicted of — perhaps some sort of criminal negligence by somebody that resulted in a fatal fire.)

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