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Subject: A Shameful Day to Live in Texas rss

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Rik Van Horn
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Innocent, but Executed

Cameron Todd Willingham and his attorneys tried frantically to show the governor of Texas a new scientific report proving his innocence. The evidence was apparently ignored, and Willingham was executed on February 17, 2004.

During his trial, he refused prosecutors' offer to give him life in prison instead of the death penalty. He told them he was innocent, and he wouldn't agree to any deals. As he was strapped down in the execution chamber, just before the lethal injection began, he proclaimed his innocence one last time.

An extraordinary new investigative report in the New Yorker shows that Willingham was telling the truth. He was innocent. David Grann's report, in the September 7 issue, exhaustively deconstructs every aspect of the case and shows that none of the evidence used to convict Willingham was valid. Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1974, Grann's report constitutes the strongest case on record in this country that an innocent man was executed.

Willingham was convicted of murdering his two young children by arson. He spent 12 years on death row in Texas before he was executed. Forensic science that supposedly proved the fire was intentionally set was central to Willingham's conviction was, in fact, completely invalid -- which the experts who testified should have known in 1992. A state forensic science commission in Texas is officially looking into the case and selected a widely respected expert to analyze whether the forensic testimony was valid. Last week the expert filed a report confirming what five other leading arson experts have found -- what passed for arson analysis in the Willingham case had no scientific basis, and the scientific facts in Willingham's case were the same as the case of Ernest Willis. In an entirely separate case, Willis was sent to death row in Texas for an arson murder of family members but, luckily, in his the state recognized the arson analysis was wrong. Willis was fully exonerated just months after Willingham was executed.

The state forensic commission in Texas is still finishing its work on Willingham's case, but David Grann's New Yorker article examines the entire case, including the jailhouse informant who plainly gave false testimony and the circumstantial evidence, flimsy in the first place, that was not what it appeared to be to the jury. After reading Grann's report, fair-minded people will know beyond a reasonable doubt that an innocent person was executed

So what now? Whether our criminal justice system has executed an innocent man should no longer be an open question. We don't know how often it happens, but we know it has happened. Cameron Todd Willingham's case proves that.

The focus turns to how we can stop it from happening again. As long as our system of justice makes mistakes -- including the ultimate mistake -- we cannot continue executing people.

At the same time, the problems in the Willingham case are not limited to people facing the death penalty. The Innocence Project has found that forensic science problems were a factor in 50 percent of all wrongful convictions that were later overturned with DNA testing. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that many forensic disciplines are not rooted in solid science. The report called on Congress to create a National Institute of Forensic Science to set nationwide standards and ensure that evidence used in criminal cases is sufficiently scientific. This can be done cost-effectively and without creating a large bureaucracy.

It's not just possible to improve forensic science in this country -- it's imperative. If Cameron Todd Willingham's case teaches us nothing else, it should make improving the reliability of our criminal justice system a top priority nationwide. It's not enough to feel bad that an innocent man was executed; we must use this moment to do better.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barry...d_b_272327.html


The current news:
Quote:
Cameron Todd Willingham: Texas Governor Dismisses 3 Commission Members Just 48 Hours Before Arson Review

DALLAS — A report concluding a faulty investigation led to a Texas man's execution won't be reviewed by a state board as planned Friday after Gov. Rick Perry abruptly removed three people from the panel, forcing the meeting's cancellation.

Perry, who has said the execution was appropriate, replaced the head of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and two of its eight other board members Wednesday. The upheaval on the commission came just 48 hours before it was to consider a report critical of the arson finding leading to Cameron Todd Willingham's execution for the deaths of his three daughters in a 1991 fire.


It's somewhat ironic that Texas is a state that not only executes the mentally incompetent but also elects them to high offices.



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Matt
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Here's where we need to see you conservatives support the death penalty or tell us your against it.
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MaximumPain wrote:
Here's where we need to see you conservatives support the death penalty or tell us your against it.


Why is it conservatives you want answers from? There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who are for the death penalty as well as people of all political stripes against it.
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Rik Van Horn
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DWTripp wrote:
MaximumPain wrote:
Here's where we need to see you conservatives support the death penalty or tell us your against it.


Why is it conservatives you want answers from? There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who are for the death penalty as well as people of all political stripes against it.

Your statement is even more misleading than you make his out to be.

While it's certainly true that people from both sides favor or disfavor capital punishment, it's also true that the majority of people who favor it tend to lie on the conservative side of the spectrum.
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I'm a liberal that is for the death penalty, but only if it's A. used quickly and B. accurately. But this cover up is pretty shady.
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Rokkr wrote:
DWTripp wrote:
MaximumPain wrote:
Here's where we need to see you conservatives support the death penalty or tell us your against it.


Why is it conservatives you want answers from? There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who are for the death penalty as well as people of all political stripes against it.

Your statement is even more misleading than you make his out to be.

While it's certainly true that people from both sides favor or disfavor capital punishment, it's also true that the majority of people who favor it tend to lie on the conservative side of the spectrum.


Well, I've never really given a lot of thought to whether more conservatives than liberals favor it. No doubt there are surveys and studies out there making that claim and probably a similar amount that dispute it. I also reckon it's regional to some extent. There is a lot to be said for tradition being a hard thing to shake loose from... even if the tradition dates back 100 or more years.

Overall, I think it's bunk that conservatives are more likely to favor this. That's just too broad a statement. Way too many factors involved.

Which leaves the subjective... moral standards, personal experiences, religion or lack of, family tradition, type of crime, history of the convicted felon and a host of other variables.

A case in point... two people I knew were brutally murdered some years back. One, the young man, was the son of a very good friend of mine and I knew him from when he was about 7 up until his death as a teen. You may read about the murders in Helter Skelter... they were Doreen Gaul and James Sharp.

My personal feelings about this particular crime led to my current view and I know of no survey that can take into account and relate politics to something that is clearly not political. At least not to me.

I am for the death penalty only in the situation where there is zero doubt that the convicted actually did the crime. That means DNA proof or other unassailable physical evidence. Videos are nice, after all, this is a much more tech-savvy environment than 35 or 40 years ago. I think retribution is an important aspect of human culture and while I know many see it as a base and outdated form of applying "ethics" to a society I can't shake the feeling that those who reject retribution are somehow afraid of the power of it in groups of people.

It is potentially a fearsome and powerful force. Also an important one.

What I don't like are mistakes in the face of the most severe form of retribution. Too many mistakes renders the act meaningless and that's how it becomes politicized. So I support wholeheartedly efforts to go back and right the wrongs when innocent men and women have been put away. And, if I were on a jury, I would never vote for the death penalty if there was even a shadow of doubt.
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To be honest, I thought there would be a more dramatic difference between parties/ideologies. This is a Gallup poll from 2004.
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Stephen Sanders
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MWChapel wrote:
I'm a liberal that is for the death penalty, but only if it's A. used quickly and B. accurately. But this cover up is pretty shady.


Completely agree with this sentiment. Apparently Perry was playing this PC to avoid giving ammo to the opposition.
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Jeff Jones
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MWChapel wrote:
I'm a liberal that is for the death penalty, but only if it's A. used quickly and B. accurately. But this cover up is pretty shady.


Those two things are totally incompatible.

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I am of the mind of DW, except that I don't think it can ever be accurate unless there is clear video evidence -- even DNA tests can be performed ignorantly and they are can never be 100% matches, just probabilities.
 
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74% vs 54%

Liberals are complaining about the 20% difference instead of cleaning up their own house? Typical, I'd say.
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SpaceGhost wrote:
I am of the mind of DW, except that I don't think it can ever be accurate unless there is clear video evidence -- even DNA tests can be performed ignorantly and they are can never be 100% matches, just probabilities.


Actually, I'm of the opinion that if someone is going to get the death penalty, a separate trial should be held to approve it (under a appropriate panel). Clear physical evidence is needed to convict. Eye Witness testimony is too unreliable.
 
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Rik Van Horn
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tada wrote:
74% vs 54%

Liberals are complaining about the 20% difference instead of cleaning up their own house? Typical, I'd say.

Perhaps you might follow your own advice and begin working to clean up your own house and get a more honest governor.
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I have no intrinsic problem with executing people, but there need to be harsh penalties for members of the authorities when someone is wrongly executed. All the way to executing members of goverment, right to the top, if they deliberately stood in the way of evidence. If a governor is given the opportunity to view evidence against the conviction and refuses to do so, then try the bastard and kill him.
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54% Liberals in favour of death penalty is just another example of how different American Liberals are from other countries' centrist parties (let alone the "far left").

I also thought there would be a larger party difference.
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How about every Governor signing off on an execution puts 40% of their gross worth on the decision. And all executed cases are then placed open with the ?FBI who will keep the case open for new infoo/analysis until ?15 years after the death of the Governor? If the Guv is certain the guilty gets executed. If he gets it wrong he/his estate/family gets hit up for cash that goes to the estate of the victim.

You'd have to hope that this would make no difference to the frequency at which Governors allow executions. It would probably add to their job excitement and make them look more personally involved in these vital decisions.
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1. Report: Bad thing happen in Texas.
2. Analyse bad thing in terms of American Conservatives vs American Liberals.
3. Reach stalemate.
4. Move onto next item of interest.

I miss the heady days of Bush when the evil of powerful interests was on naked display. Things are back towards normal now and the shit is happening still but behind closed doors and its so hard to take much interest in American politics.

Just keep the world safe for capitalism, don't start a war with China and make some good movies guys.
 
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FlyingArrow wrote:
Pinook wrote:

Just keep the world safe for capitalism, don't start a war with China and make some good movies guys.


Didn't you get the memo? Capitalism is evil now.

Its always been evil - just recently its been worryingly evil for us 1st worlders.

But from Perth, Australia, the money gushing in from China has apparently resumed its frantic pace and we don't have time to worry about evil or good any more.

The previous state government insisted that the gigantic LPG development would only be approved if 5% (?) of the gas was sold in the state. That's the way us socialists do things. But now the project volume has increased by some ?15 times. And so the producers are going to have to sell 15 times as much gas inside the state. Which may mean they will have to practically give it away. So the energy costs of industry here will be rather low. But don't worry - we still believe in free trade, a level playing field and no unfair government subsidies.arrrh
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Overturning this case would be at least indirectly suggesting a fundamental change to our trial system, wouldn't it?

Now, fact is determined by the jury. In this case the jury was convinced (erroneously, it seems) that arson was committed.

In what way would you change our legal system to rectify this?
Personally, after having participated as a juror a few times, I think our legal system could use a shakeup. Now it's really judging between two histrionic displays and picking the better/more convincing one..
 
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Even people who support the death penalty can see the glaring problems with how its applied in Texas.
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Is there a day you can live in Texas without shame?
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The Thin Blue Line is a great documentary on a complete framing of a man for a murder of a Dallas cop that put him on death row. He ultimately was not executed and served 12 years, but the puzzling thing about the case was the evidence that was completely ignored (presumably because the police and the courts wanted to kill someone for the crime but their best suspect was not a legal adult). The conviction was incredibly absurd... the teen that was guilty was in custody and admitted / bragged about the crime, had the murder weapon in possession, prints on the vehicle (both the pistol and the car were stolen from his neighbor hours away from Dallas) and the convicted man (was hitchhiking and picked up by the murderer hours before the slaying) had an alibi via a hotel registration and other supporting witnesses that could not put him at the scene when the murder happened. The film is billed as "the first movie mystery to actually solve a murder".

Randal Adams (the convicted)

IMDB (7.9)

Errol Morris (director's website)

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Matt
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DWTripp wrote:
MaximumPain wrote:
Here's where we need to see you conservatives support the death penalty or tell us your against it.


Why is it conservatives you want answers from? There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who are for the death penalty as well as people of all political stripes against it.


So do you support the death penalty Tripp? Do you know any conservatives who are against it? Ill bet there are just asking if you know any?
 
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MaximumPain wrote:
DWTripp wrote:
MaximumPain wrote:
Here's where we need to see you conservatives support the death penalty or tell us your against it.


Why is it conservatives you want answers from? There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who are for the death penalty as well as people of all political stripes against it.


So do you support the death penalty Tripp? Do you know any conservatives who are against it? Ill bet there are just asking if you know any?


I answered in my post above. And sure, I know plenty of conservatives against the death penalty. Lots of them are Christians. I know fewer liberals for the death penalty, but that is partially explained by where I live. Not as many liberals here as conservatives.

Idaho is a death penalty state but there aren't a lot of people who get that penalty and executions are rare in comparison to Texas.

All this points up as to why I see broad "polls" and generalizations such as this to be inherently flawed. Politics isn't normally why a person is for or against something like the death penalty. There are way to many factors involved.

Similar arguments and false assertions happen in almost every thread in RSP. If a person doesn't like the current "plan" for health care wending it's way through our system then they are accused of being "against" all reform. And further, they are accused of wanting people to die quickly. Same illogical thinking is applied to issues like welfare and wars and so forth.

I wouldn't get excited if the death penalty was outlawed again either. It's not that big an issue to me.
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My mother was a conservative (and an atheist), but opposed the death penalty. We used to have great debates over the issue.
 
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