October 15, 2009
Willingham case and Texas Gov continuing to make headlines
I am getting the sense that the controversy over Texas's execution of Cameron Todd Willingham and subsequent investigation of the case will be going on for quite sometime. But today brings these especially notable headlines from various newspapers on the matter:
- "Texas execution: Gov Rick Perry calls Cameron Todd Willingham 'monster,' defends state's handling of execution"
- "Texas Gov. Perry labels forensics panel story a 'media sideshow'"
- "Execution controversy about more than 'bad man'"
- "Perry's general counsel benefited from experts in his own arson-related case"
The final linked story comes from the Dallas Morning News, and it links to this blog post from Glenn Smith while providing this remarkable report:
It turns out that Perry's general counsel when Perry denied a stay of execution for Cameron Todd Willingham subsequently benefited in his own arson case a few years later — by citing the same kind of forensic arson investigators that Perry has dismissed in the Willingham case....
The governor's general counsel, David Medina, was subsequently appointed to the Texas Supreme Court. In a bizarre turn, Medina and his wife were indicted in 2007 in their own arson-related case. They were accused of tampering with evidence in a fire at their home. The Medinas hired experts who found that the arson investigation was flawed — and they were cleared of all charges.
Says Smith: The parallel is incredible, really. The indictment against Francisca Medina was dismissed because independent experts said the fire could have been started by faulty wiring. Willingham was executed after Perry's office rejected an independent expert who said the fire that killed the Willingham children was probably not arson, but caused by faulty wiring.
If all this is all true — and a Justice now sitting on the Texas Supreme Court prevailed on the same basic arguments that he deemed insufficient to keep Texas from executing Willingham — all I can say is: Wowsa!?!
October 15, 2009 at 02:00 PM | Permalink
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Justice for me but not for thee.
Posted by: dm | Oct 15, 2009 2:23:23 PM
Sounds like something out of a John Grisham novel.
Posted by: lawyer | Oct 15, 2009 2:38:46 PM
Actually, Texas has two courts of last resort: (1) the Texas Supreme Court that handles only civil matters, and (2) the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that handles only criminal matters. So J. Medina, who sat on the Texas Supreme Court, would not have ruled on Willingham's case. (I'm a defense attorney in Texas)
Posted by: Judy | Oct 15, 2009 3:12:44 PM
I know that distinction, Judy, but wouldn't thrhe governor's general counsel, David Medina, have seen some of the arson stuff when helping Pery consider Willingham's clemency request? I know Alberto Gonzales as then-Gov-Bush's general counsel was the main point person brief the Gov on clemency petitions. I assume Medina had that role, too, in some capacity at least when the Willingham case came up for execution.
Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 15, 2009 3:19:13 PM
Maybe I'm too cynical, but there is NOTHING about "justice" in Texas that can surprise me any more.
Posted by: BSB | Oct 15, 2009 3:51:07 PM
Perry has backed himself so far into a corner on this that, politically, it seems like his only option is to take the fight right back at his critics and simply grandstand and declare that this was an open-and-shut case of a clearly guilty man, and that anyone who says otherwise is a anti-incarceration propagandist and a coddler of monstrous criminals.
The problem with that of course, is that the facts do not back it up. But political tactics have triumphed over facts before. I certainly hope that they don't this time. If the facts are being pushed by Kay Bailey Hutchinson in a primary (in a sort of "I believe strongly in the death penalty," but I also believe in fairness and transparency and getting it right way), it will be harder to brush them off as liberal propaganda, I would imagine.
Posted by: anon | Oct 15, 2009 3:56:46 PM
South Carolina has now issued posthumous pardons for two men who were wrongfully executed in 1915. Click here
Posted by: JC | Oct 15, 2009 4:07:16 PM