Just 88 minutes before the February 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, Gov. Rick Perry's office received by fax a crucial arson expert's opinion that later ignited a political firestorm over whether Texas, on Perry's watch, used botched forensic evidence to send a man to his death.
In a letter sent Feb. 14, three days before Willingham was scheduled to die, Perry had been asked to postpone the execution. The condemned man's attorney argued that the newly obtained expert evidence showed Willingham had not set the house fire that killed his daughters, 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron, two days before Christmas in 1991.
On Feb. 17, the day of the execution, Perry's office got the five-page faxed report at 4:52 p.m., according to documents the Houston Chronicle obtained in response to a public records request.
But it's unclear from the records whether he read it that day. Perry's office has declined to release any of his or his staff's comments or analysis of the reprieve request.
A statement from Perry spokesman Chris Cutrone, sent to the Chronicle late Friday, said that “given the brevity of (the) report and the general counsel's familiarity with all the other facts in the case, there was ample time for the general counsel to read and analyze the report and to brief the governor on its content.”A few minutes after 5 p.m., defense lawyer Walter M. Reaves Jr. said he received word that the governor would not intervene. At 6:20 p.m. Willingham was executed after declaring: “I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit.”
How about we just end Perry's political life -- right now? Not wait for March or November 2010? Demand his immediate resignation.
Oh wait, I almost forgot: this is Texas.