There have been dozens of stories over the past two weeks about Governor Perry’s decision to shake up the state forensic science commission right before it was to begin an investigation into arson evidence used in a trial in which a man was convicted, and eventually put to death.
On the surface it sounds scandalous and is understandably being used by the governor’s opponents. But a detailed reading of each story lead me to think the scandal charge hollow and had me wondering what is fueling the story other than political opponents.
Custom made to make Texas and our governor look bad; a serious breakdown and analysis of what has happened doesn’t seem to support the charges made, and that’s why the story appears specious.
The stories ignore much other evidence in the trial which lead to the man’s conviction; that the Board of Pardons and Paroles did not recommend the governor intervene to stop the execution, and most importantly; that replacing members of the forensic science commission actually brings fresh eyes to any investigation. The investigation many are perturbed about, which many hint that the governor ended as some type of cover-up, was about to be conducted by the very people who were in charge when the claimed bad-science was used and appeals lost by the convict Willingham. A bit like having the fox guard the henhouse. Fresh eyes are a plus not a negative.
And to timing being a big issue with the board shake-up just before an investigation was to begin, note that there was no hurry in the matter as the execution had already taken place. It is not as if any investigation was stymied while Willingham was waiting on the result of an appeal. This is another indictment of those members of the forensics board who were not re-appointed and are now crying foul. They sought to look into arson evidence well after the man was executed instead of doing so when he was still alive and allegations as to bad-science were being made to appellate courts and the pardons and paroles board. Again, more reason as to why changes were needed on the forensics board for the purpose of justice.
I finally discovered why this story is being pushed hard, aside from election politics. It came when I noticed that the latest big story on the matter, printed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, turned out to be from a story in the Chicago Tribune. This story isn’t about Perry or his actions. It’s a story fueled by the anti-capital punishment crowd and an international push to make it appear Texas knowingly put to death an innocent man.
Robert Pratt is host of the top rated Pratt on Texas radio program which can be heard at www.PrattonTexas.com.