During one Republican presidential debate, the audience applauded Rick Perry’s record of executing 234 death row inmates. Perry stated that he didn’t struggle with the possible innocence of any of the executed; however, questions about one Texan executed on his watch, Cameron Todd Willingham, continue. Willingham’s flawed trial was explored in an outstanding article by David Grann in The New Yorker, which offers strong evidence that Texas under Perry executed an innocent man.
Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of The Innocence Project, spoke to Tom Hartmann about Willingham. Sheck relates that Willingham’s conviction on charges of burning down his home and killing his children was indeed based on unreliable evidence. Leading arson analyst Dr. Gerald Hurst brought such findings to Gov. Perry, who paid them little attention and upheld Willingham's execution. Perry then tried to cover up a post-conviction forensic science commission by substituting three participants with his own appointees. Regardless, the commission also concluded that the evidence was unreliable. Scheck's interview followed the execution of Troy Davis, despite serious doubts about the latter's guilt. Both cases point to the bottom line regarding the death penalty: maintaining it renders the execution of the innocent a constant possibility–or an inevitability. Listen:
CNN on Oct. 2009 provided more details on Perry's cover up, including his possible political motivations. Watch: