Many of you have probably been lying awake at night wondering when I will finally get around to writing about Cameron Todd Willingham. Finally, you will be able to sleep. I will be writing of Willingham frequently and extensively for a while, beginning immediately with this News Flash, and following immediately with a second.
Willingham was convicted of and executed for the arson murder of his three young children. His case has become a lightning rod for both sides of the death penalty debate. Opponents of the death penalty claim Willingham was convicted based on a seriously flawed arson investigation, and they have nine (count 'em, nine) of the nation's top fire experts backing them up. Proponents say it doesn't matter: Willingham confessed to his wife not long before he was executed. Or so they say.
Texas empanelled and empowered a forensic team to investigate the arson science surrouding the case. Rick Perry quickly neutered that team by replacing some of the commissioners, including the chairman, with his hand-picked cronies. (Did I say cronies? I meant boot-licking toadies.) The chairman recently attempted to wrap up the committee work with a no-harm, no-foul ruling, but a majority of the other commissioners balked. They would like to actually hear some testimony before shutting down.
That's it for the background. Now for the news flash.
Judge Charles Baird of Austin has agreed to open a Court of Inquiry to determine whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully convicted and, by extension, wrongfully executed. He will hear testimony next Wednesday and Thursday, so mark your calendars.
Here's what my calendar is looking like:
06 Oct -- Court of Inquiry opens in case of Cameron Todd Willingham
13 Oct -- US Supreme Court to hear case of Hank Skinner
08 Nov - Judge Fine to hear motions on constitutionality of the death penalty
Couple these events with the 11 June decision by Judge Paul Murphy that Texas must turn over for DNA testing a 1" hair sample that might prove The Despicable Claude Jones was wrongfully executed, and you have a witches' brew of death penalty cases for Rick Perry to chew on. (The metaphor got away from me, but I'll just leave it.)