October 1st, 2009
12:03 PM ET
5 years ago

Texas governor shakes up panel probing 2004 execution

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has shaken up a state commission that is probing whether a man executed in 2004 belonged on death row.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has shaken up a state commission that is probing whether a man executed in 2004 belonged on death row.

DALLAS, Texas (CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry has shaken up a state commission that is probing whether a man executed in 2004 belonged on death row. Perry's move forces the commission to delay a scheduled hearing on the case.

The governor acted two days before the commission was to hear from an expert who has cast doubt about the quality of the arson investigation that helped convict Cameron Todd Willingham of murder in the deaths of his three daughters in a fire at their home.

Death-penalty opponents say a thorough review of the Willingham case may force Texas to admit that it executed an innocent man. The Texas governor and others, however, say they remain convinced of Willingham's guilt.

Perry replaced the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and declined to reappoint two commission members. The commission was to hear testimony Friday from Craig Beyler, an arson investigation expert. He wrote the latest of three reports critical of the testimony that helped prosecutors convict Willingham of murder in 1992.

The governor's office told CNN the moves were a routine replacement of members whose terms had expired.

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Filed under: Rick Perry
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Dianne J. Vidugiris

    It sounds to me like the Governor is trying to impede the justice process here and cover his own tracks.

    The family and the justice system of Texas deserve a thorough and complete investigation into this case of a man that may have been unjustly executed.

    George W. Bush and now apparently Governor Perry appear to be too quick on the writs of execution. Governor Perry needs to stop trying to cover his own back side and let the truth and justice to prevail.

    October 1, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. Clint

    Perry has blood on his hands and bats in his belfry. For the first time in my adult life I'm voting Dem. Hutchinson and Perry are both nauseating, so I'll hold my nose and vote Dem next election. Hope my congresscritter Kevin Brady gets the boot as well.

    October 1, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. AustHall

    WOW!!!

    Rick Perry is a real piece of work trying to hide the possibility that an innocent man was executed

    October 1, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  4. Gary

    If you execute people even for the most horrendous crimes, at some point you will accidentally execute an innocent man. That doesn't mean execution is the wrong decision but making a mistake should be part of the discussion. I don't like the idea of execution but if the majority want it for the worst crimes I guess that is okay me. This is not a Republican/Democrat issue. Most of my friends, Republican and Democrat strongly believe in execution. Most of the people that I know who oppose execution are actually "pro life" Republicans. It'll be interesting to see what happens here.

    October 1, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. David, Austin, Texas

    Oh...Ricky is so slimy. He hopes this shuffling will cause delays in any negative report until AFTER his hoped-for re-election.

    October 1, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    hmmm...I wonder if by doing this, he's done something the DOJ should be investigating. I'm not kidding. This is abuse of power to the Nth degree and a complete obstruction of justice on so many levels. Someone go pick out a tree...I'll get the rope.

    October 1, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Clint

    "The Texas governor and others, however, say they remain convinced of Willingham's guilt." If you are so sure, Mr. Governor, then why are you impeding this investigation? More importantly, why is it that everything involving Texas politician's seems to have a distinct stench to it?

    October 1, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Chipster

    Rick Perry, the Ed Meese of Texas. I'll never forget Meese's statement that “you wouldn't be a suspect if you weren't guilty”. If that's true, why do we bother with trials and evidence?

    Of course, Meese changed his tune when he became the suspect for possibly unethical practices.

    October 1, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. I'll make 'em famous

    When most country have moved on, the state of Texas remains with barbaric laws that no longer belong to the 21st century:

    At least don't execute someone who hasn't been caught 'red handed'...Unless you can bring them back!!

    October 1, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Ken

    Typical [R]. Too cowardly to even review cases they themselves are convinced they are right on. They want to rule by dogma....no review, no analysis. If our western society had chosen to develop via their socio-scientific methods, we would all still be living in caves, begging the feudal lords for scraps of their leftover food to go along with the rat droppings scraped from the cave floor. But I'll give them one thing, under that system health care and global warming would be non-issues!

    October 1, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. Brian

    Whine whine whine. We still have one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Say what you want, if you don't like it in Texas, leave!

    October 1, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Sam

    But of course, Texas doesnt excute innocent people...

    October 1, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Jack in Florida

    Seems like a delay, cover thy butt technique!!!

    October 1, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Everyone knows that Texas has executed more people than any other state. They are very proud of this. It goes hand in hand with the fact that it is a Red state. They (R) believe in saving the fetus in the name of God, so that they can kill it in the name of country. The distinct probability that they executed an innocent man would not be a first, and as you can tell by perry's actions, quite irrelevant after the fact.

    October 1, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  15. Richard in California

    Gov. Rick "I'm a'gonna do it! I'm a'gonna secede!" Perry is the quintessential example of what's wrong with the Republican party. When they're wrong, they refuse to acknowledge it, and go as far as to bury their heads (or the truth) in the sand, and refuse to look. Hiding behind procedure is yet another head-burying method.

    October 1, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Just another GOP wingnut...

    October 1, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom

    The conservatives argue that we are a Christian nation, but the fact that we want to Death Penalty 'eye an for an eye' is FACT that we are sadly, not a Christian nation! We are a violent nation, ready to kill our enemies, ready to attack countries (Iraq & Afghanistan) that had NOTHING TO DO with September 11th (9/11 terrorists were all citizens of Saudi Arabia!)

    Conservatives has obviously not read Jesus' Gospel, where He tells us that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, and that JUDGMENT and condemnation is up to God Almighty!

    October 1, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Fair is Fair

    I'm a conservative, but I'm VERY MUCH AGAINST capital punishment.

    If a SINGLE innocent person is executed (and there has been), the entire arguement falls apart. In my opinion, anyway.

    October 1, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. DSW

    Just another Republican to be proud of!
    What about all those Pro-Lifers???

    October 1, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Farrell in Houston

    Perry is unfit to be governor or anything else in politics. When a so-called head of state threatens succession when we have troops serving in war from Texas and as well other States, that should have been enough to have him removed. He's the most dispicable person who cannot be trusted.

    October 1, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. ~~ July ~~ ( Working HARD to make TX Blue )

    Welcome to TEXAS ... where we do "Death Panels" the Texas way ... age no matter.

    October 1, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Garland

    Perry is a Bush Clone! He never steps up to the plate until an election is coming up. How many people have to exonerated that were on death row before he wakes up? How many innocent have died? I'm sick of the Texas arrogance. He needs to go! I won't vote for pretty hair!

    October 1, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. Jackie in Dallas

    This is a blatant attempt by the Governor of my state to cover up one of the greatest miscarriages of justice ever - and that's saying a lot considering the history of justice in this state!

    I've voted against this man every opportunity I get, and wish that, somehow, he could be removed from center stage here. Perry....go AWAY. Move to Alaska, please!

    October 1, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Do I smell a fish

    Surely The Governor has power and discretion to extend the commission's mendate since they were so close to starting holding hearings and submitting a report. Unless Mr. Perry does not favor the outcomes of the commision's findings and does not want the State held responsible for the execution of an innocent man.

    October 1, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. indy 08

    Sounds like Gov Perry pulled the plug on an innocent man just to validate his Machsimo. Now he is covering his rear end.

    October 1, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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