Why Is Rick Perry the Poster Boy for Limited Government?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Salon’s Justin Elliott riffs on that appalling “It takes balls to execute an innocent man” comment from a Texas GOP focus group participant, and wonders if the Cameron Todd Willingham case may actually help Rick Perry in the GOP primary. As Elliott points out, it almost certainly isn’t going to hurt him. And that’s bad enough.

I’d like to hear some of the more thoughtful conservatives lining up behind Perry weigh in on this. Here’s how I see it: A state government has no more awesome, complete, or solemn power than the power to execute its own citizens. If you’re going to claim to loathe big government, this is one area where you ought to be more skeptical of government than any other. Hell, if for no other reason than that it can’t be undone.

The problem here isn’t necessarily that Perry presided over the execution of a man who was likely innocent. If Perry had shown some concern about what happened in the Willingham case, maybe set up an investigation into what went wrong, perhaps even attempted to suspend executions in Texas until he could be sure checks were in place to prevent the execution of an innocent, the way George Ryan did in Illinois—if he’d done any of that, he’d at least have shown some appropriate skepticism. He’d have shown that he’s at least cognizant of the fact that government employees in law enforcement and criminal justice are just as fallible and subject to the trappings of power, bureaucracy, and public choice theory as government employees in, say, tax collection or the regulation of business.

Instead, Perry couldn’t even acknowledge the possibility of doubt about Willingham’s guilt. He justified his stubbornness by pointing out that Willingham also allegedly beat and was verbally abuse toward his wife, as if that were at all relevant to Willingham murder trial. (Unfortunately, lots of men beat their wives. Most of them don’t also burn their children alive.) More importantly, Perry’s pivot to a “Willingham was a bad man” defense glosses over the most alarming aspect of Willingham’s case, which is much bigger than Willingham: The state of Texas used completely bogus forensic evidence to convict a man in a capital case. (The state also used testimony from a fraud psychologist in the death penalty portion of Willingham’s trial, as it had in dozens of other trials.)  If that was allowed to happen here, it has happened in other cases, and in other contexts. Worse, when the state’s forensics committee attempted to investigate Willingham’s execution, Perry replaced the committee members pushing for an investigation with new members more sympathetic to prosecutors.

Perry was confronted with the possibility that the government over which he presided may have abused it’s most awesome and sacred power. And instead of skepticism of government, he showed deference. Instead of demanding transparency, he actively obfuscated. Instead of exposing and demanding accountability for a possibly historical government error, Perry used his own power to keep himself and his constituents ignorant, lest they begin to question whether government should have such power. And it’s not as if there aren’t ample other examples of the flaws with Texas’ death penalty and its criminal justice system. Hell, Texas has one county that that has seen more exonerations than all but a few states.

If it helps, think of the the death penalty as a “government program.” It’s one thing to support this government program. It’s something else to refuse to believe your favorite government program could ever do wrong. And it’s downright pathological to be so confident in your favorite government program’s infallibility that you actively undermine an investigation into said government program’s possible flaws.

And he’s doing it again. In the Hank Skinner case, Perry has actively fought DNA testing that could confirm the innocence (or guilt) of another Texas man on death row. Skinner was at one point hours from execution before the Supreme Court intervened (the intervening justice was Antonin Scalia, believe it or not). In Skinner’s case, the prosecution actually began to conduct DNA testing on crime scene evidence, then stopped when the first tests confirmed Skinner’s version of events. Perry again justified willful ignorance in this case by simply noting that he’s personally convinced of Skinner’s guilt. As if there aren’t dozens of examples of what appeared to be clearly guilty people who were later exonerated by DNA. With Skinner, Perry is not only choosing willful ignorance over transparency, he’d rather risk executing another innocent person than possibly undermine support for the government’s power to execute its citizens.

I understand the law and order instinct on the right. I also understand why people support the death penalty. But you can hold both of those positions and still be disgusted by Rick Perry’s actions in the Willingham and Skinner cases. In fact, I’d say that if you’re going to claim the banner of limited government with any integrity, you damned well ought to be.

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75 Responses to “Why Is Rick Perry the Poster Boy for Limited Government?”

  1. #1 |  fasteddie9318 | 

    I’m going to guess that this effort will fall apart around the issue of finding “thoughtful conservatives lining up behind Perry,” but that’s just a wild guess.

  2. #2 |  Irving Washington | 

    I’d like to hear some of the more thoughtful conservatives lining up behind Perry weigh in on this.

    The key word in this sentence is “more.” “Thoughtful” is not how I would describe his base.

  3. #3 |  Mister DNA | 

    I say this as a Texan, not as a supporter of either the death penalty or Rick Perry:

    The stock response to this will be along the lines of, “You’ve got to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet.” For many Texans, the death penalty isn’t a government policy, it’s an Article of Faith.

    As much as it embarrasses me, I live in a state where people think public executions and sterilization are the way the government should deal with graffiti artists.

  4. #4 |  Legate Damar | 

    I also understand why people support the death penalty.

    I am still pro-death penalty in the abstract, but much like Keynsian stimulus and the KFC Double Down, it’s a idea that works in theory, yet only causes pain in the real world.

  5. #5 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    If you’re going to claim to loathe big government, this is one area where you ought to be more skeptical of government than any other.

    Proof point #18,784 that that’s not really what they are about.

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    Well said Radley. Perry uses the “small government” mantra because it is popular, while ignoring that the entire premise of small government libertarians is that the government is too powerful, intrusive, and corrupt. Pushing for executions, abusing the system to get a desired result, and pandering to the religious right are not small government.

    Libertarians might also find fault with other aspects of Texas government. If you think that there is a state function in providing education (I do), then Texas is doing very very badly.

  7. #7 |  Perry Endorses the Constitutional Vision of James McReynolds : Lawyers, Guns & Money | 

    [...] fairness, he’s not always reflexively anti-government; when it comes to state murders of innocent people, he’s all for it! Share and [...]

  8. #8 |  ClubMedSux | 

    I’m so fucking sick of politics as sport.

    That is all.

  9. #9 |  Centric Texan | 

    I am a registered Democrat, who also happens to be resident of the State of Texas. Although I’m registered as a Democrat, I am more centrist than left.

    Having said that, I do believe in the death penalty. But I cannot understand how ANY person can be executed based solely on circumstantial evidence — or because a DA, AG or Governor of the state has a “personal belief” that the suspect/convicted person is guilty. Belief is not proof. That Perry cannot even acknowledge the possibility of doubt regarding Willingham, speaks to his complete arrogance and his reckless disregard for our legal system. That he replaced the state’s forensics committee members pushing for an investigation with new members more sympathetic to prosecutors is blatant corruption — something that I’m sure most Texas residents are familiar with, as it is rampant in government here.. I cannot fathom how this man was re-elected.

    And that Perry is again obstructing justice in the case of Skinner, shows that he is more interested in politics than in truth and justice. The execution of a man BEFORE any DNA has been tested is tantamount to murder. Plain and simple. There should never be a question as to whether DNA should be tested, if available. It should ALWAYS be tested. And this nonsense about investigators and DA’s ignoring DNA evidence because they ‘believe’ they already have their suspect needs to end immediately.

  10. #10 |  knoxharrington | 

    As a lawyer in Dallas (the county with most overturned convictions in the state thanks to DA Watkins) I was poleaxed by Perry’s response in the Willingham case. I was at a conservative lunch meeting with Perry’s sister and the subject came up and her response was “Rick does what he thinks is right.” If he think executing an innocent man is “right” then he needs to be as far from public office as one can get. Absolutely shameful.

  11. #11 |  TomG | 

    I’m totally opposed to the death penalty.
    Leaving aside other good arguments against it, my primary reason is that there is so seldom a clear, unambiguous line of evidence compelling enough that you can be certain that the person you are about to kill by using State force is, in fact, the person who committed the crime. And there are so many cases like the one you cite here, in which the State demonstrates that it simply DOES NOT CARE to find out the real truth, and will suppress evidence that may lead to a mistrial or a verdict of “innocent”.

  12. #12 |  Don Lloyd | 

    Of course Gov. Perry acts on his own beliefs, especially if it seems politically advantageous. If God wanted him to believe something else, he would directly tell him so.

    Regards, Don

  13. #13 |  David | 

    You’d think “arrest and convict the first person you find, while letting actual murderers potentially run free” would be something the “law and order” crowd doesn’t like.

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Jesus Christ. Just reading this makes Perry seem like the perfect republican candidate (at least based on the party’s historical stand on aggressive application of the death penalty and the summary dismissal of namby pamby worries about innocence).

  15. #15 |  kant | 

    If it helps, think of the the death penalty as a “government program.” It’s one thing to support this government program. It’s something else to refuse to believe your favorite government program could ever do wrong. And it’s downright pathological to be so confident in your favorite government program’s infallibility that you actively undermine an investigation into said government program’s possible flaws.

    a little off topic but I couldn’t help but notice that this same behavior rears it’s ugly head when talking about other government programs. *cough*drugwar*cough**cough*

  16. #16 |  fwb | 

    The government is not about justice. The government is about perception and they don’t care who gets hurt so long as the outcome appears that they are tough on crime. And most people don’t give a damn as long as it ain’t themselves being busted. There is a great “poem” by Neimoller about the Nazis coming for each group. It paints a picture of how people really are.

    Will you die for you neighbor if he/she is right and those coming are wrong?

    Perry is a prick and an asshole. He is in the pockets of big corporations.

    NEVER VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO HAS EVER HELD ANY OFFICE. One stirke and out.

  17. #17 |  SJE | 

    Its a disgrace that politicians are happy to play with the life or death of people for political advantage. Lets kill prisoners and get reelected! Even the famous Ryan death penalty moratorium started just as the corruption investigation of Ryan was really getting going….one that was triggered after a family was killed by a trucker with a bogus license that was traced back to a scheme to funnel money to Ryan. Then you have all the “strong America” people who seem to forget that a lot of their posturing is paid with the blood of thousands of U.S. soldiers, not to mention the “collateral damage”

  18. #18 |  JS | 

    Thank you Radley! Brilliant and timely.

  19. #19 |  KT | 

    Obviously the Republican leadership lines up behind Perry because their benefactors are scared shitless of Ron Paul.

  20. #20 |  Stephen | 

    The republican candidate will end up being the worst possible candidate that still has a chance of winning.

  21. #21 |  JS | 

    I remember reading about the police killing a cousin of Perry’s last year and he actually made excuses for that too. He’s a true cop worshipping law and order guy.

  22. #22 |  jb | 

    #13,
    Absolutely. That should be the first retort whenever any “law’n’orda” types start defending ridiculous prosecutions. “So you want to jail this guy when it looks like he didn’t do it…that means you’re OK with the real perp walking free?”

  23. #23 |  Mister DNA | 

    I just posted a link to this article on my Facebook page and got the following comment:

    I found every comment and the entire article itself a anti capital punishment festival. I have no confidence in a blog thats throws stones but does not offer any tangible truth. I have seen enough bad cases with proof to have serious concerns about capital punishment. This article is a thinly veiled hit-piece . . . .politcal clap trap. The assertion in the title implies you can not believe in capital punishment and be conservative simulantaneously. Thats crap.

    Fantastical!

  24. #24 |  thefncrow | 

    “Hell, Texas has one county that that has seen more exonerations than all but a few states.”

    To expand on this, the reason Dallas has so many exonerations is because Dallas County actually has kept most of the DNA evidence available. Wrongful prosecutions are not likely to have been significantly higher in Dallas County than anywhere else in the state, it’s just that they still have their hands on the evidence that can be retested to exonerate the people wrongfully convicted.

    There’s a message board out there for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, basically a message board where Texas prosecutors get together and talk. Years ago, there was a thread started by a prosecutor who was looking for language which would allow him to require a plea bargainer to waive all rights to future testing of the evidence in the case. John Bradley, the Williamson County DA, responded. His advice was that, since “innocence trumps everything”:

    “A better approach might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest. Harris County regularly seeks such agreements.”

    Unfortunately, if you try to look into the TDCAA message board for that comment, you won’t find it anymore. After that thread spawned a serious discussion in other forums on exactly how sickening of a position this was, this comment was removed, although the thread still contains other comments that refer to it as well as a later explanation by Mr. Bradley where he basically complains “What’s your problem with what I said? It’s perfectly legal!”

    Why do I bring up John Bradley? Because when Perry replaced the head of the Forensic Science Commission, the body that was actively looking into the fraudulent evidence used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham, Perry removed the head of the committee and replaced him with none other than John Bradley, Williamson County DA.

  25. #25 |  lunchstealer | 

    I don’t even necessarily mind a tough-guy Texan being scared to admit of any possibility of executing an innocent man. Saying anything on the subject other than, “he was found guilty in a court of law of a heinous crime that resulted in the death of three beautiful young children, and all proper procedure was followed during the appeals process.” Then he’s covered.

    What bugs the hell out of me was there was a forensic commission that was doing that due diligence of figuring out, in an official capacity, whether there was an issue with the case. It was sufficiently politically distant from Perry that he wouldn’t look weak-on-crime if he just left it alone. But he couldn’t just do that. When it looked like it was going to make a report that might make things moderately uncomfortable for him, he suddenly fired three people and replaced them with toadies who’d just sweep the whole thing under the rug.

    It doesn’t take balls to execute an innocent man.

    You know what takes balls? Admitting that you might have executed an innocent man and allowing a forensic review board to make an official call one way or the other.

    Rick Perry doesn’t have the stones to even let the Texas Forensic Science Commission do its job, if it might make him look bad.

  26. #26 |  Judi | 

    Perry is an ass clown…period. Well Hood is too for that matter.

  27. #27 |  ALowe | 

    “Here’s how I see it: A state government has no more awesome, complete, or solemn power than the power to execute its own citizens.”

    Isn’t that the only power any government has?

  28. #28 |  Radley Balko | 

    thefncrow:

    Is there any other documentation or account of that story?

  29. #29 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    There’s a term used to describe people like Perry and those like him who believe that it’s okay to kill innocent people: “psychopath.”

  30. #30 |  thefncrow | 

    Radley:

    The initial comment thread, which has since been sanitized, is here:
    http://tdcaa.infopop.net/2/OpenTopic?a=tpc&s=347098965&f=157098965&m=1181086441

    The blog Grits For Breakfast covered this when it initially occurred:
    http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2007/02/destruction-of-dna-evidence-thwarts.html
    http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2007/02/das-dislike-criticisms-of-dna.html
    http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2007/03/should-das-seek-dna-destruction-in.html

    And in March of this year, Bradley was attempting to be confirmed to his position in the Forensic Science Commission by the Texas Legislature and he was questioned about this specific comment. There’s an item on Grits For Breakfast that has a bit about this exchange, as well as a Google Docs link to an archived form of the TDCAA forum thread with Bradley’s comments still included:
    http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2011/03/nominations-chairbradley-appointment-as.html

    I did get one small thing wrong. The first quote I gave as “innocence trumps everything”, when in fact it was “Innocence, though, has proven to trump most anything”.

  31. #31 |  lunchstealer | 

    Judas: Also “government official”

  32. #32 |  André | 

    Radley: https://imgur.com/s0vyv This story on “non-lethal” tasers might interest you.

  33. #33 |  Danny | 

    Careful now.
    We don’t want to stray too far from current Libertarian orthodoxy here:

    1) deficit-financed tax cuts
    2) ???????????????????????
    3) Libertopia

    Sure, Rick Perry might preside over executions of the innocent, a vast gulag of supermax dungeons, a juvenile system that is a Sean Nokes wet dream, and a state party that declared in its platform its intention to recriminalize homosexuality, but he didn’t raise taxes, and he doesn’t cotton to moochers.

    I repeat: HE DIDN’T RAISE TAXES. Thus, he qualifies for Libertarian sainthood.
    Oh, and the Texas economy is good, too (and oil that never went below $80 a barrel on his watch has nothing to do with it, of course).

  34. #34 |  Johnny Clamboat | 

    I repeat: HE DIDN’T RAISE TAXES. Thus, he qualifies for Libertarian sainthood.

    That’s incredibly lazy even by your own standards, Danny.

  35. #35 |  Johnny Clamboat | 

    Well said Balko.

  36. #36 |  Radley Balko | 

    I repeat: HE DIDN’T RAISE TAXES. Thus, he qualifies for Libertarian sainthood.

    You realize that you’re responding to a post on a libertarian blog, don’t you? And that said post is sharply critical of Perry? And that the responses to the post from the blog’s readers are, also, near universal in criticizing him?

    How exactly does all of that jibe with your “libertarians only care about taxes” snark?

  37. #37 |  Brandon | 

    He’s all for small government, but you have to understand, it’s different when TEAM RED does it.

  38. #38 |  JohnJ | 

    If the death penalty is a government program, it also includes death by imprisonment. There are worse things the government can and does do than execute those convicted of crimes. Death by imprisonment is a horrible way to die. If a person isn’t exonerated during the extensive appeals process, it’s highly unlikely they would be exonerated during a death by imprisonment sentence.

  39. #39 |  Aresen | 

    I am opposed to the death penalty.

    Except for politicians.

  40. #40 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #33: What have you been smoking? As a libertarian I support your right to smoke it, but as a sensible person I suggest you refrain from making an ass of yourself in public by writing incredibly stupid, totally nonsensical things under its influence.

  41. #41 |  TDOM | 

    A government without the power of life or death over its citizens is a government without power. How much power do you wish to place in the hands of your government?

    TDOM

  42. #42 |  NTC | 

    I’m not a fan of his views on social issues, but for a “law and order” conservative VA AG Ken Cuccinelli is miles better than Perry on the death penalty. As a state senator, he voted against eliminating the “triggerman rule.”

    Also, this: http://wamu.org/news/11/07/20/cuccinelli_joins_wrongfully_convicted_va_man_at_innocence_project_luncheon.php

  43. #43 |  JohnJ | 

    In my opinion, there wasn’t enough evidence to justify Perry interfering with Willingham’s sentence. But it seems to me that this is a very narrow criticism, and a more balanced view would also take into consideration the fact that Perry did great work reforming the juvenile justice system. His work reforming the system speaks to me more than one ambiguous incident.

  44. #44 |  Deoxy | 

    “So you want to jail this guy when it looks like he didn’t do it…that means you’re OK with the real perp walking free?”

    THIS. This is what should get “law and order” type people’s attention. Most of the other arguments about the death penalty, etc, get no traction at all. USE THIS.

    Well, not EXACTLY that – a little more nuance would be more persuasive… but you get the idea.

  45. #45 |  Deoxy | 

    A government without the power of life or death over its citizens is a government without power. How much power do you wish to place in the hands of your government?

    Enough to achieve some sense of order – enough to deal with large scale riots, for instance (see London).

    You’re absolutely right in your first statement – and I don’t think that works out with the vast majority of people on the planet in the way you think it does. The vast majority don’t want a government that weak.

    Now, I’m pretty strongly for strong regulation and public review of when that power is exercised, but I do believe the power itself is needed.

  46. #46 |  George Arndt | 

    Perry is like a lot of Southern Conservatives: Libertarian one minute, authoritarian the next.

  47. #47 |  JOR | 

    You have to understand that as far as conservatives’ perceptions are concerned, the prosecution and enforcement apparatus (including the military) is not really part of the government. (Unless they’re enforcing stupid laws against guns, or maybe tobacco or booze, and even then, don’t count on them: the 90’s were a long time ago).

  48. #48 |  PUT | 

    If you’re going to claim to loathe big government, this is one area where you ought to be more skeptical of government than any other.

    NONSENSE! Taking a long time to decide whether to kill somebody or not means you need lots of investigators and lawyers and prison guards and hundreds of other people. The small government approach is to make a decision and GET IT DONE!

  49. #49 |  Bronwyn | 

    Well, at least John Bradley had the good sense to keep the B.

  50. #50 |  Z | 

    Conservatives are in favor of small government when it comes to helping people and making their lives better (the world was a much harsher place before, say, child labor laws and public school came in) but when it comes to controlling and harming people (supermax, executions, wars) government is all the rage.

  51. #51 |  Z | 

    Oh yeah fun Texas death penalty fact of the day: Texas had a good run using a shrink to testify that minorities were inherently more dangerous and likely to re-offend.

  52. #52 |  Aresen | 

    PUT | August 12th, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    NONSENSE! Taking a long time to decide whether to kill somebody or not means you need lots of investigators and lawyers and prison guards and hundreds of other people. The small government approach is to make a decision and GET IT DONE!

    So, Big Government is all about the number of people involved; the actual POWERS of government are irrelevant. It’s good to have small government so you can do things quickly, even if they are evil.

    mmmmkay, right.

    I will point out that the government presence of George III in the 13 Colonies was considerably smaller than the government presence of George Washington after his inauguration.

  53. #53 |  Rich Jones | 

    Yeah, and Pontius Pilate had balls too.

  54. #54 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    What we have here, sadly, is the consequent backlash to decades of listening to well placed fools agitate in favor of the very likely guilty-as-sin (Mumia, Ira Einhorn, and Polansky spring immediately to mind).

    The cure, if there is one, would be to strongly differentiate between the philosophies of Rule Of Law and its distant lowbrow cousin Lawr N’ Odah. I’m still generally in favor of having the Death Penalty, if only so that there is something to hold over violent criminals already serving Life sentences. I’m ALSO in favor of putting Agents of the State (like cops and prosecutors) who abuse their position to put an innocent person at risk of his life on trial for Conspiracy to Commit Murder …. and of executing the most egregiously guilty.

    (wouldn’t THAT set the cat among the pigeons!)

    No system involving humans will ever be perfect, but the one we have now needs some serious work.

  55. #55 |  Justthisguy | 

    I have read that Perry was seen entering the Bilderberger meeting, presumably so that he could be examined and vetted.

  56. #56 |  C.A. | 

    Was that person who said “It takes balls to execute an innocent man” being ironic or expressing admiration? Here’s the actual quote from Politico:

    “Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man – Cameron Todd Willingham – and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.””

    That primary voter might not have been expressing approval. He might have been appalled at the chutzpah of a state leader who didn’t care whether the person being executed was innocent or not. Because it does take metaphorical “balls” to do something so senseless and contrary to human decency and not feel the need to slink away in shame and never run for public office again.

  57. #57 |  raphael a | 

    The sad reality is that the punishing or even executing of innocent American citizens by sitting politicians is prevalent among both parties, and therefore not a logical disqualifier. Jane Swift, Martha Coakley and Janet Reno all incarcerated innocent daycare owners. Reno needlessly killed a hundred more in Waco. Clinton had Ricky Ray Rector needlessly put to death, and brought false charges against Billy Ray Dale. Barack Obama has no qualms in forcing innocents to go to dangerous DC and Chicago schools, where significant numbers are murdered each year, sometimes in gruesome manners. Kennedy left the Bay Of Pigs mercenaries, American citizens serving at his behest to be captured or die.
    Setting aside the wars that most libertarians oppose, I am convinced that Clinton could have aided the Belgians in stopping at least some of the slaughter in Rwanda had he not been looking to save his post-Mogadishu neck, and Obama can do more to save those now are slowly dying in East Africa.
    Want a presidential candidate without blood on his hands? Try Roseanne Barr. She also sings a mean national anthem.

  58. #58 |  GaryM | 

    Perry is a fundamentalist of the worst kind, and the Bible is full of death penalties for minor offenses. Is it any wonder he doesn’t have much concern for human life?

  59. #59 |  Patti Labelle « Duncan Roy's Blog | 

    [...] On a serious note.  Those of you who sneered at my ‘Palin and her ilk’ warning…take a look at Rick Perry.  The newest warrior of Christ who wants to be President of The United States.  If you thought Palin and Bachmann were bad…read this. [...]

  60. #60 |  Dudley Sharp | 

    None of the forensic reviews of the fire in Willingham case can exclude arson in that case.

    Texas state representatives have upheld that the fire was arson and they had first hand knowledge, as well as a review of the evidence that none of the critical forensic scientists had.

    The two findings are 1) that it is arson and 2) that arson cannot be excluded.

    As Gerald Hurst states: “I never had a case where I could exclude arson,” “It’s not possible to do that.”(1)

    Hurst is the scientist whose findings were rejected by Gov. Perry, as well as the courts, asa basis for a stay, shortly before Willingham’s execution.

    Hurst is definitely correct in the Willingham case, that arson can’t be excluded.

    However, I find Hurst’s statement too broad. For fires containing a flashover, it will often make it impossible to exclude arson. But, I don’t believe that in all flashover fires or in all fires that don’t have a flashover that arson can always be included as a possible cause.

    Much additional evidence points to Willingham’s guilt (2). You should read about it before your next article on this case.

    Some relevant readings:

    False innocence claims by anti death penalty activists are all too common. Some examples:

    “The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents”
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/08/the-innocent-executed-deception–death-penalty-opponents–draft.aspx

    The 130 (now 138) death row “innocents” scam
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/03/04/fact-checking-issues-on-innocence-and-the-death-penalty.aspx

    Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/05/04/sister-helen-prejean–the-death-penalty-a-critical-review.aspx

    “At the Death House Door” Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?”
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/01/30/fact-checking-is-very-welcome.aspx

    FOOTNOTES

    1) “Family’s Effort to Clear Name Frames Debate on Executions”, John Schwartz, New York Times, October 14, 2010,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/us/15execution.html?_r=1

    2) A full review of the case:
    “Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown”, A Collection of Articles
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Cameron%20Todd%20Willingham.aspx

  61. #61 |  Brett Johnstom | 

    Great article hopefully people will wake up about Perry.

  62. #62 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    In what way does this quote of a Right Wing messianic twit disqualify the speaker to a greater degree than common quotes of Radical Chic idiocy attributed to the Left Wing Messianic Twit currently in the White House?

    Use both sides of the paper if necessary.

  63. #63 |  Rick Perry for President? : Minor Thoughts | 

    [...] These are the concerns that make me worry about having Governor Perry become President Perry. [...]

  64. #64 |  Interesting Stuff for a Rainy Sunday » ReasonAndJest.com | 

    [...] Radley Balko: Why is Rick Perry the Poster Boy for Limited Government? [...]

  65. #65 |  One Up, One Down » Right Thinking | 

    [...] He also has been very cavalier in asserting the most awesome power the government has: the power to executed people. On the other hand, Texas one of the leaders in taking a more sensible approach to crime, having [...]

  66. #66 |  RMD | 

    This is so sad, but it details the plight of many inmates. It takes balls to admit you made a mistake and correct that mistake, that’s what REAL men do. But the United Snakes, including the Public Pretenders, are all cowards who convict or passively watch people get convicted of charges they are truly innocent of, in order to gain favor with their decreasing public supporters. I live in CA, which I think is far worse than TX as far as convicting innocent people, but thankfully they’re very slow with executions.

    Mr. Willingham’s case is the highest level of misjustice because he can’t be brought back. However, many people are convicted everyday of crimes they didn’t convict but most don’t even trust being tried by their peers in a jury trial because many in the jury is trying to get a smile from the United Snakes. I don’t know why, it’s not going to save their a** if they’re ever charged. This is a true event; imagine going to traffic court for a misdemeanor hit & run of a parked car and then being charged with felony vandalism because the DA wants to revoke your probation and send you to prison……

    All we have to do is look around at all the corupt people finally getting exposed in the justice system, from the police on up to the judges for crimes like child molestation, police brutality, murder, stealing public funds, fraud, rape, tampering with evidence, etc. Now do you REALLY trust the “flawless” government to fairly charge, convict and take the life (death sentence or life imprisonment) of your fellow citizens?

  67. #67 |  RMD | 

    …. In CA the hit & run I described was accidental by an unexperienced 20 year old unlicensed driver on probation who panicked after hitting the parked car. The DA turned a accidental misdemeanor traffic violation into an intentional malicious felony crime only to violate probation and send the young man, who, by the way, has NO criminal record aside from what he’s on probation for. The Public Pretender stood passively by to allow it. This is our justice system at their best work.

  68. #68 |  The Republican Primary – Act 2 « The Fifth Column | 

    [...] by the way, also has an affinity for having people executed, guilty or not. In the Hank Skinner case, Perry has actively fought DNA testing that could confirm the innocence [...]

  69. #69 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @56 – I find it offensive to the male sex, I’m quite sure innocence wouldn’t stop, oh, Palin from ordering it either.

  70. #70 |  Phelps | 

    Texas has executed fewer innocent men than Mexicans killed by Obama’s Operation Fast and Furious.

    The sad fact is that Perry is the best we can do right now on limited government. The rest are even worse.

  71. #71 |  fwb | 

    For whatever reason, those on the inside of government always view everyone who works for the government as being angelic, with a bent for truth, honesty, etc. Those of us on the outside have the polar opposite view of the government and its minions. It is easy to see how today’s government has morphed from what the Framers attempted to give us into the creature that ate NY.

    We get what we get because humans are freaking evil.

  72. #72 |  demize! | 

    ‘Limited’ to being a douchbag, ammiright?

  73. #73 |  Why Rick Perry Won’t Unite the Republican Party | Speculative Thinker | 

    [...] power to its governor than other states. But that’s an insufficient response to Balko, who notes that “government has no more awesome, complete, or solemn power than the power to execute its [...]

  74. #74 |  Rick Perry Supporters Play With Madness | Decibel Magazine | 

    [...] fides of many of today’s loudest “small government” boosters are, as Radley Balko notes, questionable at best. And I say that as someone who actually would like to see most of the little [...]

  75. #75 |  More on Rick Perry and Criminal Justice | The Agitator | 

    [...] voters. The case against Perry’s actions in the Willingham case is a moral one. And one that calls into question the consistency of his limited-government credentials. Framing the issue in a horse race context [...]

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