Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cameron Willingham was executed an innocent man

I recently read this very moving article about Todd Willingham who could become the first verified person in the modern American judicial system where the state who administered the execution admitted the person was innocent.

And if you read the article, there seems to be little doubt.

"In 2005, Texas established a government commission to investigate allegations of error and misconduct by forensic scientists. The first cases that are being reviewed by the commission are those of Willingham and Willis. In mid-August, the noted fire scientist Craig Beyler, who was hired by the commission, completed his investigation. In a scathing report, he concluded that investigators in the Willingham case had no scientific basis for claiming that the fire was arson, ignored evidence that contradicted their theory, had no comprehension of flashover and fire dynamics, relied on discredited folklore, and failed to eliminate potential accidental or alternative causes of the fire. He said that Vasquez’s approach seemed to deny “rational reasoning” and was more “characteristic of mystics or psychics.” What’s more, Beyler determined that the investigation violated, as he put it to me, “not only the standards of today but even of the time period.” The commission is reviewing his findings, and plans to release its own report next year. Some legal scholars believe that the commission may narrowly assess the reliability of the scientific evidence. There is a chance, however, that Texas could become the first state to acknowledge officially that, since the advent of the modern judicial system, it had carried out the “execution of a legally and factually innocent person.”"

Article is right here.

Reading the article, it lead me to some of the following conclusions:

1) State government can be both woefully inept, and ideologically blinded by their own agenda. Texas is a very scary place to be condemned to die. They seem woefully too ready to inject the needle. Those folks who feel like the federal government should push everything down to the states, really should think twice about that. The federal government has access to a much broader pool of talent with the opportunity to pull from this knowledge base to write policy that works broadly. Having a good balance between the federal and state government seems more correct to me.

2) The poor just do not have access to a fair judicial system. The state appointed defense attorneys often seem to be unreliable and incompetent.

3) Similar to 2), the deck is stacked against the poor, especially the poor with large tattoos on their biceps. An assumption was made early on of his guilt, and he was guilty because to some, he looked guilty.

4) I'm inclined, philosophically, to support the death penalty for the most serious of crimes. But realistically, I just don't think you can trust any judicial system to consistently, over the long haul be good enough not to execute an innocent person. That a lone is reason enough to completely abolish the practice.

1 comment:

JRV said...

This has always been an issue Ive flopped back and forth about in my own head. The reality has always been not 'if' we execute an innocent man but 'when' we execute an innocent man. Im sure its happened more times than we will ever realize.
Is it our place to procede with the archaeic practice of an eye for an eye or is life in prison sufficient enough and lets leave the ultimate punishment to the afterlife.
Although, Ive never had a loved one die at the hands of another, I wonder what I would think then.
Interesting. Obviously I still am flip flopping.