Saturday Night Massacre, Business as Usual, or Both?

(c) Scott Langley

(c) Scott Langley

An important hearing was supposed to take place in Texas today, but on Wednesday, September 30, Texas Governor Rick Perry abruptly replaced three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission that is currently reviewing the fire investigation that led to the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.  The Governor took this action two days before the Commission was scheduled to hear live testimony from Craig Beyler, a nationally respected fire expert whose recent report criticized the original investigation of the fire that killed Willingham’s three children as having “nothing to do with science-based fire investigation.”

That hearing, scheduled for today, has now been postponed, and the chair of the Commission, a defense lawyer from Austin, Sam Bassett, has been replaced by politically-connected, tough-on-crime prosecutor John Bradley.  More than a few eyebrows have been raised by Governor Perry’s sudden move.  Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project,  which also conducted a review of Willingham’s case and determined that he was innocent of the crime for which he was executed, called Perry’s actions a “Saturday Night Massacre,” drawing an analogy with President Nixon’s famous firing of the special prosecutor who was investigating the Watergate scandal. 

For his part, Governor Perry said that his actions were simply “business as usual” … the terms of the three Commission members he removed had expired, so they were replaced.  Of course, this occurred two days before the Commission’s hearing, and there is no reason Governor Perry could not have simply reappointed those Commission members so that they could finish their important work. 

Governor Perry (and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles) signed off on Willingham’s execution back in 2004, despite having in hand a report challenging the fire investigations as “junk science,” and the Governor has publicly challenged Beyler’s credibility, referring to him and others who have looked at the case as “supposed experts.” What Governor Perry’s expertise is in the area of forensic fire science is unclear.

What is clear is that, whatever the Governor’s motives, if his actions lead to another white-washing of a dubious conviction and death sentence (and, in this case, execution), then that will indeed be “business as usual” in Texas.

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11 thoughts on “Saturday Night Massacre, Business as Usual, or Both?

  1. Boo, hiss, Governor Perry! Shame on you for persisting in denying the innocence of the man who was wrongfully executed, Cameron Todd Willingham! You call this, and executing innocent people, the right thing to do?! As Abraham had said to God concerning innocents in the guilty towns of Sodom and Gomorrah (and I quote the same thing for you), "Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?" You think God called you to execute what you believe are the guilty ones and get away with it while unknowingly denying their innocence? Whoever you are, you are certainly a messenger of Satan, not God. On Judgment Day, Jesus will separate the sheep (virtuous) from the goats (those who fail to do good deeds), and he will reward the sheep for their good deeds with "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me," while condemning the goats with, "Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me." Gov. Perry, I sure hope you will regret what you have done one day and not end up like one of those goats who fail to help the innocent and refuse clemency for both the innocent and the guilty on death row. May God have mercy on your wretched soul, and may the souls of those whom you have executed, especially repentant sinners and innocent people like Cameron Todd Willingham, rest in the eternal peace that they deserve with all the souls of the murder victims. :(

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  3. Boo, hiss, Governor Perry! Shame on you for persisting in denying the innocence of the man who was wrongfully executed, Cameron Todd Willingham! You call this, and executing innocent people, the right thing to do?! As Abraham had said to God concerning innocents in the guilty towns of Sodom and Gomorrah (and I quote the same thing for you), “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” You think God called you to execute what you believe are the guilty ones and get away with it while unknowingly denying their innocence? Whoever you are, you are certainly a messenger of Satan, not God. On Judgment Day, Jesus will separate the sheep (virtuous) from the goats (those who fail to do good deeds), and he will reward the sheep for their good deeds with “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” while condemning the goats with, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” Gov. Perry, I sure hope you will regret what you have done one day and not end up like one of those goats who fail to help the innocent and refuse clemency for both the innocent and the guilty on death row. May God have mercy on your wretched soul, and may the souls of those whom you have executed, especially repentant sinners and innocent people like Cameron Todd Willingham, rest in the eternal peace that they deserve with all the souls of the murder victims. :(