Is Ignorance the Best Policy?

UPDATE:

The US Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Henry Skinner, at least temporarily.  He has filed a petition to the Supreme Court, and if the Court declines to hear his petition, the stay will be lifted.  If the petition is accepted, the stay would continue indefinitely and there would be a hearing at the Supreme Court.

Today, Texas is scheduled to execute Henry “Hank” Skinner, despite the fact that readily available evidence in his case has never been tested for DNA which might prove his innocence (or confirm his guilt).  Adopting a policy of willful ignorance is nothing new for officials of the Lone Star State.  Infamously, last week, the Texas State Board of Education voted to remove Thomas Jefferson from the state’s social studies curriculum because he coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” His name was deleted from a list of famous writers who inspired 18th and 19th century revolutions. He wrote the Declaration of Independence.  

Six years ago, the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham was allowed to proceed, even though Governor Rick Perry and others were warned that the science used to convict Willingham of an arson that killed his three children was seriously flawed, and that the fire might have been an accident.  Last Fall, Governor Perry personally sabotaged an investigation into the science used in Willingham’s case, abruptly replacing three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission just as it was about to hear from a nationally respected forensic fire science expert, Craig Beyler, whose report concluded that the fire should not have been ruled an arson.

Well, now it’s Spring 2010, and Mr. Beyler has still not had a chance to present his findings to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, but last night, he did participate in a panel that discussed the case, and the need for better forensic science, at Georgetown Law School here in DC.  According to the Innocence Project, three states (Arizona, Nebraska and Oklahoma) are considering legislative resolutions in support of using “solid science” in arson investigations.

Really?  We need legislative resolutions for that?

Sadly, yes. Texas officials not only don’t endorse “solid science,” they continue to actively thwart efforts to improve the quality of forensic investigations.  Executing Henry Skinner while grave doubt hangs over his conviction, when DNA tests could easily remove that doubt, is just the latest example that, for Rick Perry and company, ignorance remains the best policy.

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19 thoughts on “Is Ignorance the Best Policy?

  1. I agree with that! That's just another shameless policy in which it's like a kangaroo court in which people make sure that true evidence is withheld in order to ensure one's guilt regardless of a fair trial! This is willfully stupid of Texas to defy the U.S. Constitution because it keeps ignoring true evidence that could have proven Hank's innocence, which they claim to be "false and pointless", and regarding flimsy, fake evidence and wrongful testimony as "true facts"! This is just like the "Blackmailer Saga" of the soap opera "Passions", except that there is no way of going back in time to prevent a wrongful execution from happening! I feel like justice is truly lost, raped and gone! In fact, all of Texas, including the families of Twila Busby, will salute Gov. Perry for "a job well done in sending another monster to hell," and will tell stories their own way in saying "Through fire, justice is served!" Well, I say the opposite that through fire, justice is still languishing in the fires of hell! But still, my heart breaks for the families of Busby and Skinner, and I will continue to pray for them both as well as for Hank Skinner. If he is denied clemency and is executed despite his innocence, then I believe that he will wear the martyr's crown of glory and join Twila and her sons in heaven in praying for Texas and the whole world, which will one day realize the error of their ways and abolish the death penalty. :(

  2. HOW COULD THIS PASS ON ANYBODY'S MIND? WHY SO MUCH KILLING AN INNOCENT MAN. PEOPLE WHO ARE PLANNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ARE OUT OF THEIR NORMAL HEAD. THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED FOR CRAZYNESS.WHAT IS GOING ON IN TEXAS, THEY DON'T SEE REALITIES? HOW SO MUCH DISGRACE ? WE HAVE TO CLAIM FOR JUSTICE!!!!!!!
    I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS BUT JUSTICE MUST BE DONE!!!!!!!!

  3. I agree with that! That’s just another shameless policy in which it’s like a kangaroo court in which people make sure that true evidence is withheld in order to ensure one’s guilt regardless of a fair trial! This is willfully stupid of Texas to defy the U.S. Constitution because it keeps ignoring true evidence that could have proven Hank’s innocence, which they claim to be “false and pointless”, and regarding flimsy, fake evidence and wrongful testimony as “true facts”! This is just like the “Blackmailer Saga” of the soap opera “Passions”, except that there is no way of going back in time to prevent a wrongful execution from happening! I feel like justice is truly lost, raped and gone! In fact, all of Texas, including the families of Twila Busby, will salute Gov. Perry for “a job well done in sending another monster to hell,” and will tell stories their own way in saying “Through fire, justice is served!” Well, I say the opposite that through fire, justice is still languishing in the fires of hell! But still, my heart breaks for the families of Busby and Skinner, and I will continue to pray for them both as well as for Hank Skinner. If he is denied clemency and is executed despite his innocence, then I believe that he will wear the martyr’s crown of glory and join Twila and her sons in heaven in praying for Texas and the whole world, which will one day realize the error of their ways and abolish the death penalty. :(

  4. In law school I was taught that the American Criminal Law System was set up to minimize the risk of convicting the innocent — and that may be so. That seems to be the underlying belief of the Texas government… once convicted by a jury someone is guilty.. despite all potential to the contrary. However, since the advent of DNA evidence there have been many reversals of convictions in the US legal system… where innocent was proven by DNA. The facts are that all "man made" "systems" make errors — including our Criminal Legal System — so the innocent do sometimes get convicted.

    I wholeheartedly believe that if the US is going to impose a "final irreversable" penalty such as the death penalty (which I do not agree with) that all efforts possible should be utilized to determine both before, and after conviction, to confirm or disprove the guilt of a convict — especially if new science can clear an innocent man.

    That said, I am not privy to the case and prior to condeming Texas would like to see more information on how a DNA test on the evidence could prove this convicts innocence. In my experience after conviction the ONLY result that will matter in this case is if DNA tests can absolutely 100% without a doubt prove his innocence — if such tests did not prove his innocent (and say only "muddied" the evidence that convicted him) the results may be disregarded by an appeals court who would not necessarily grant him a new trial.

    Now, I also remember that the International Community (the European Court of Justice?) at one time condemned the US for allowing endless appeals in death penalty cases — not for imposing the death penalty but for giving convicts hope and then dashing it over and over with the appeals.

    So I hope the Governor does stay the execution and order the evidence to be submitted for DNA testing — it may not matter anyway and it may only be a momentary stay.

  5. I agree with you, Stella. The only cruel monster is Texas itself. After all, they believe that everyone is guilty of murder, though they are innocent, and "deserve to be executed and go to hell!" They are the Texas death row version of the Westboro Baptist Church, with death row inmates in place of gays and lesbians! They are too blind and deaf to any kind of justice but their own, too infatuated and convinced of their own righteousness and despising everyone else. :x

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  7. HOW COULD THIS PASS ON ANYBODY’S MIND? WHY SO MUCH KILLING AN INNOCENT MAN. PEOPLE WHO ARE PLANNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ARE OUT OF THEIR NORMAL HEAD. THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED FOR CRAZYNESS.WHAT IS GOING ON IN TEXAS, THEY DON’T SEE REALITIES? HOW SO MUCH DISGRACE ? WE HAVE TO CLAIM FOR JUSTICE!!!!!!!
    I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS BUT JUSTICE MUST BE DONE!!!!!!!!

  8. HOW COULD THIS PASS ON ANYBODY’S MIND? WHY SO MUCH KILLING AN INNOCENT MAN. PEOPLE WHO ARE PLANNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ARE OUT OF THEIR NORMAL HEAD. THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED FOR CRAZYNESS.WHAT IS GOING ON IN TEXAS, THEY DON’T SEE REALITIES? HOW SO MUCH DISGRACE ? WE HAVE TO CLAIM FOR JUSTICE!!!!!!!
    I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS BUT JUSTICE MUST BE DONE!!!!!!!!

  9. HOW COULD THIS PASS ON ANYBODY’S MIND? WHY SO MUCH KILLING AN INNOCENT MAN. PEOPLE WHO ARE PLANNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ARE OUT OF THEIR NORMAL HEAD. THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED FOR CRAZYNESS.WHAT IS GOING ON IN TEXAS, THEY DON’T SEE REALITIES? HOW SO MUCH DISGRACE ? WE HAVE TO CLAIM FOR JUSTICE!!!!!!!
    I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS BUT JUSTICE MUST BE DONE!!!!!!!!

  10. HOW COULD THIS PASS ON ANYBODY’S MIND? WHY SO MUCH KILLING AN INNOCENT MAN. PEOPLE WHO ARE PLANNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ARE OUT OF THEIR NORMAL HEAD. THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED FOR CRAZYNESS.WHAT IS GOING ON IN TEXAS, THEY DON’T SEE REALITIES? HOW SO MUCH DISGRACE ? WE HAVE TO CLAIM FOR JUSTICE!!!!!!!
    I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS BUT JUSTICE MUST BE DONE!!!!!!!!

  11. HOW COULD THIS PASS ON ANYBODY’S MIND? WHY SO MUCH KILLING AN INNOCENT MAN. PEOPLE WHO ARE PLANNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ARE OUT OF THEIR NORMAL HEAD. THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED FOR CRAZYNESS.WHAT IS GOING ON IN TEXAS, THEY DON’T SEE REALITIES? HOW SO MUCH DISGRACE ? WE HAVE TO CLAIM FOR JUSTICE!!!!!!!
    I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS BUT JUSTICE MUST BE DONE!!!!!!!!

  12. In law school I was taught that the American Criminal Law System was set up to minimize the risk of convicting the innocent — and that may be so. That seems to be the underlying belief of the Texas government… once convicted by a jury someone is guilty.. despite all potential to the contrary. However, since the advent of DNA evidence there have been many reversals of convictions in the US legal system… where innocent was proven by DNA. The facts are that all “man made” “systems” make errors — including our Criminal Legal System — so the innocent do sometimes get convicted.

    I wholeheartedly believe that if the US is going to impose a “final irreversable” penalty such as the death penalty (which I do not agree with) that all efforts possible should be utilized to determine both before, and after conviction, to confirm or disprove the guilt of a convict — especially if new science can clear an innocent man.

    That said, I am not privy to the case and prior to condeming Texas would like to see more information on how a DNA test on the evidence could prove this convicts innocence. In my experience after conviction the ONLY result that will matter in this case is if DNA tests can absolutely 100% without a doubt prove his innocence — if such tests did not prove his innocent (and say only “muddied” the evidence that convicted him) the results may be disregarded by an appeals court who would not necessarily grant him a new trial.

    Now, I also remember that the International Community (the European Court of Justice?) at one time condemned the US for allowing endless appeals in death penalty cases — not for imposing the death penalty but for giving convicts hope and then dashing it over and over with the appeals.

    So I hope the Governor does stay the execution and order the evidence to be submitted for DNA testing — it may not matter anyway and it may only be a momentary stay.

  13. I agree with you, Stella. The only cruel monster is Texas itself. After all, they believe that everyone is guilty of murder, though they are innocent, and “deserve to be executed and go to hell!” They are the Texas death row version of the Westboro Baptist Church, with death row inmates in place of gays and lesbians! They are too blind and deaf to any kind of justice but their own, too infatuated and convinced of their own righteousness and despising everyone else. :x

  14. With respect to Texas and to other states, the door is always open, if there is convincing evidence which shows innocence or injustice in obtaining a conviction. Every governor –including the Texas Governor–has the pardon power, and some states have delegated pardon power (or recommendation) to others. Texas actually exercises the pardon power much more than other states, some of which have it but seldom use it. Even if the courthouse door is closed (because of finality of judgment), thus there always remains an avenue for review. It is sometimes the case that evidence is not presented at trial, and the question is whether or how long afterwards evidence may then be presented.

    Courts are not the only forum for relief.

    With all respect–and I think the innocence projects are great–in each of the cases "overturned," a court or governor, and sometimes a prosecutor focused on justice, was willing to reopen the case and reevaluate the evidence. Defense attorneys have the ability to ask, but not the power to decide. Each "successful" case required a willing court, a willing prosecutor, a willing governor, one or more. However, some of those cases "overturned" did not conclusively show innocence, but rather showed that there was, or might have been, doubt about the original verdict.

    Death penalty cases these days require extensive scrutiny, and receive it anyway because those entirely opposed to the death penalty make any argument which can cause delay, hoping that delay (which is a kind of victory) may bring victory, sometimes reducing their credibility in the process. Critics complain about delays, when they are the cause of many of the delays. Critics complain about unequal enforcement, when they would not be for equal enforcement.

    alg

  15. With respect to Texas and to other states, the door is always open, if there is convincing evidence which shows innocence or injustice in obtaining a conviction. Every governor –including the Texas Governor–has the pardon power, and some states have delegated pardon power (or recommendation) to others. Texas actually exercises the pardon power much more than other states, some of which have it but seldom use it. Even if the courthouse door is closed (because of finality of judgment), thus there always remains an avenue for review. It is sometimes the case that evidence is not presented at trial, and the question is whether or how long afterwards evidence may then be presented.

    Courts are not the only forum for relief.

    With all respect–and I think the innocence projects are great–in each of the cases “overturned,” a court or governor, and sometimes a prosecutor focused on justice, was willing to reopen the case and reevaluate the evidence. Defense attorneys have the ability to ask, but not the power to decide. Each “successful” case required a willing court, a willing prosecutor, a willing governor, one or more. However, some of those cases “overturned” did not conclusively show innocence, but rather showed that there was, or might have been, doubt about the original verdict.

    Death penalty cases these days require extensive scrutiny, and receive it anyway because those entirely opposed to the death penalty make any argument which can cause delay, hoping that delay (which is a kind of victory) may bring victory, sometimes reducing their credibility in the process. Critics complain about delays, when they are the cause of many of the delays. Critics complain about unequal enforcement, when they would not be for equal enforcement.

    alg

  16. YAY!!! Henry Skinner is safe! I'm so happy he was stayed at the final moments! :) :D

  17. YAY!!! Henry Skinner is safe! I’m so happy he was stayed at the final moments! :) :D