Texas Governor Replaces Members of Commission Examining Possible Wrongful Execution

On September 30, Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chairman and two members of a state commission that is investigating whether inaccurate evidence of arson was presented at the trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004. The state’s Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to conduct a public hearing in two days and receive testimony from Craig Beyler, a nationally known expert who called the Willingham investigation “slipshod,” and concluded that “almost all of the evidence presented [w]as based on junk science.” Beyler’s report for the Commission concluded that “no credible evidence existed to believe that the fire, that killed three children, was caused by arson.”

Governor Perry denied Willingham’s request for a stay of execution five years ago that would have allowed the courts time to review new reports questioning the fire investigation. Perry has continued to discount forensic-expert Beyler’s conclusions and to argue that there is evidence of Willingham’s guilt. The governor said that the three commission members were all at the end of their terms and dismissing them was “pretty standard business as usual.” The Commission’s scheduled hearing has now been cancelled.

(C. Hope, “Gov. Perry replaces head of agency investigating Texas arson findings,” Dallas Morning News, October 1, 2009.) See Innocence and Arbitrariness.