The following opinion by Michael Stone was published in the Portland Progressive Examiner on July 23, 2010.
While Texas Governor Rick Perry continues to deny the fact that Texas executed an innocent man, Texas Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley is trying to end an investigation into the testimony of arson investigators that helped lead to Cameron Todd Willingham's execution.
The capital punishment evidence used against Willingham was proven to be "junk science," yet Perry ignored the truth and permitted the execution of an innocent man. Willingham, wrongly convicted of arson, was put to death in 2004 for killing his three children.
After the conviction, but before the execution, new and compelling forensic evidence had been made available to Perry that proved the fire was not arson. Perry ignored that evidence, and then went on to try to cover-up and bury evidence proving an innocent man was to be executed.
Indeed, in the past five years, at least six arson experts have examined evidence in the Willingham case and found that there were no credible indications that the fire was intentionally set. The Texas Forensic Science Commission was about to report those facts before Perry replaced numerous commission members, and squashing any possibility of a public accounting before an upcoming election.
Last fall Perry abruptly replaced Samuel Bassett, the head of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and the commission's founding chairman, with political ally and capital punishment proponent John Bradley. Perry made the move in order to avoid public testimony by science experts prepared to demonstrate at once both Willingham's innocence and Perry's callous and willful disregard of an innocent man's life. It was a blatant attempt at cover-up.
Perry's mistake in allowing the execution of an innocent man is only compounded by his attempt at cover-up. Perry's strategy of cover-up rests on a conspiracy theory claim that the preponderance of the evidence showing Perry knowingly allowed the execution of an innocent man is nothing but the fabrication of forces opposed to capital punishment.
Governor Perry knew there was no arson, yet allowed Willingham to be executed. Perry's behavior in the matter is despicable. He brings shame to the state of Texas, and himself. He should be held accountable. The cover-up must not be allowed to stand. Cameron Todd Willingham deserves justice.