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. Susan

    "routine replacement" of course! And Perry has a bridge to sell as well. The death penalty is wrong, against God's law, and immoral. Perry is afraid the truth will come out, that he executed an innocent man! How these religious conservatives can be so anti-abortion that they are willing to kill doctors, and be so in favor of state sponsored murder begs the question of whether they ever read those Bibles they trot out. Maybe they blacked out "Thou shalt not kill."

    October 1, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. Deb (long island)

    From all that is reported Perry should be ousted. One could not expect anything less from him.

    October 1, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    huh...I wonder what God's gonna have to say about that one when it's this reptile's turn to be judged, eh southern fundies?

    October 1, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. Sniffit

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

    Apparently, Perry also recognizes this as the truth.

    October 1, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. itsjibba

    This poor man was convicted because of testimony of an arson investigator with no scientific training. The root cause of this is poor science education. Only scientifically based forensic analysis can lead to fair trials. If you don't teach evolution and the like to children, the result is judges, juries, and expert who are unable to rationally determine guilt and innocence.

    Texas needs to get out of the dark ages first if it ever wants a fair justice system that does not execute the innocent. A first step would be real science education complete with Darwinian theory.

    October 1, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. too bad the republiklans lack ideas

    executing an innocent man is the same as killing innocent babies....life is life, but Rick Perry's pro-life "family values" is skewed!

    I can't wait for him to secede to the after-life and out of politics already – Dont forget take Texas with you!!!

    October 1, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Fitz in Texas

    This election I'm pretty sure Debra Medina will be getting my vote.

    October 1, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    Aaaaah, TX...not content with gifting us with Bush in order to redefine "stupid" forever and anon, they've decided to also give us Perry in order to help redefine "douchebag". Kudos kowboyz.

    October 1, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann

    Perry abused his power by shutting down a normal, legitimate investigation, then he LIED about it by claiming the firings had nothing to do with the arson investigation. He was not required to fire the commissioners. He executed an innocent man despite pre-execution evidence that the science used by the expert witnesses was flawed, and now Perry wants to cover up his incompetence. Perry is dumber than I thought if he thinks Texans will forget this in 2010.

    October 1, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. NJ

    Is there any independent verification that Rick Perry is a human being? Caaaaause I have serous doubts.

    October 1, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. S Callahan

    Cameron is innocent...go in prayer...you'll learn the same thing.
    He is a scapegoat to the politics at the time....small town thinking in a big political bubble. Shameful.

    October 1, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. J.L.

    In Texas, it's "Presumed guilty until proven innocent..."

    October 1, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. redleg

    I thought that the Air Force trained its officers about candor and responsibility.

    October 1, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Grog in Ohio

    Only in Texas could anyone so shady have a real chance at winning re-election.

    October 1, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. katiec

    What is so disturbing many innocent people have been executed for crimes they did not commit. And, Texas seems to be the leader on executing the death penalty.
    Those who cannot afford legal representation do not stand a chance. We have prosecuters who are more interested in making a name for theirselves than justice. Many times evidence of innocence is hidden, juries are swayed by smooth talkers and the injustice of our justice system continues.
    No innocent person should be put to death. But, if status quo continues so will unjustified deaths.

    October 1, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Greg, PA

    If he's so convinced of the man's guilt, then what does he have to hide? Or is it simply that finding out his state executed an innocent man is not political comfortable?

    October 1, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Peoples Voice

    If you don't like the truth, then replace the truth speakers with liars.

    Job well done you phone family values Christian Republican hypocrite. You people are really sickening.

    October 1, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Navy Vet

    Two more of the Republican mantras: 1. Never admit you did something wrong 2. Never apologize, they go nicely with 3. I got mine, so "f" you.

    October 1, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. unshrub

    republicans seem to want the truth only if it doesn't hurt them, otherwise, they want to pull a Dick Cheney.

    October 1, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Marie MD

    What happened to Texas seceding from the Union?

    October 1, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. unshrub

    One of the basic principles in our legal system has been that it is better to let 10 guilty people go free than it is to convict one innocent person. But in Texas when it comes to the death penalty they have it turned around.

    I know many conservatives are going to argue with this, but before they start screaming and hollering about this, they need to study of legal system.

    October 1, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. deborah/kansas city

    Just like a Republican, who cares if anything is legal or just, they misuse their authority to cover it up. Republican polititians seem to believe they are above the law and can just do whatever they please. Richard NIxon and on down.The fact that the State of Texas may have murdered and innocent man, husband, son, and father is way less important that saving face for the police, district attorney, and governor. So, just fire the people who were being objective and replace them with partisan hacks, who will say whatever you want, Governonr Perry? The politization of our justus system, enocuraged by Carl Rove, Dick Cheny, George Bush must stop. Aren't they Texans too? Texas should really be ashamed and voted this whacko out of office.

    October 1, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. FactCheck

    Gunnery Sergeant Hartman had it right "Only steers and queers come from Texas ... and [Perry] don't look much like a steer to me."

    October 1, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. Ken, AZ

    All one need do is look at the number of death row inmates in Texas who have been exonerated and released as a result of DNA testing. I'm certain that there have been many innocents persons wrongfully executed in Texas, and else where.

    October 1, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  25. coolchange

    So, this makes Perry's 2nd time pulling the plug on Willingham.

    October 1, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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