Thursday, May 04, 2006

Texas leads nation in state approved killing.

On February 28, 1845 the Republic of Texas ceased to exist as a nation and became the State of Texas. Many Texans lament that. These day many Americans lament it as well. In recent political history Texas gave America Lyndon Baines Johnson and George Bush -- both big government advocates though, of the two, Johnson had more respect for the Constitution albeit very little. The other thing Texas is known for is a blood thirsty enjoyment of executing people. Texas puts to death more people than any other American state.

Texas contains about 7.5% of the US population but is responsible more that one third of all judicial killings in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Bureaucrats and politicians in Texas absolutely refuse to acknowledge the possibility that government is inept and could be murdering innocent people.

But one recent case of judicial murder in Texas has garnered some unwanted national publicity. On December 23rd, 1991 Cameron Todd Willingham was home with his three children: one year old twins Karmon and Kameron and two-year-old Amber. His wife had gone Christmas shopping. Willingham was awakened by the scream of Amber and found the house in flames and filled with smoke. He got out but his children perished.

Arson investigators for the state testified that the fire was deliberately set using as proof theories that have been totally discredited. One fire investigator claims that there is a phenomena "crazed glass" which only happens when a fire burns extra hot due to the presence of an accelerant. But this has been proven false. The distortion of the glass can also happen when the glass is very hot and cold water is poured on it. In other words the act of putting out the fire can create the "evidence" that is used to prove the fire was intentional.

Arson investigators need not have any scientific training at all and can receive all training on the job. This means that many simply learn the myths and urban legends of the men who trained them. An investigation into the Willingham case indicates that testimony against him was entirely based on false assumptions that have been disproven.

A few months after the politicians of Texas put Willingham to death another case arose using precisely the same sort of evidence. Ernest Willis had been sentenced to death for murder by arson and had managed to get a retrial while awaiting execution. During the retrial experts showed the evidence against him was seriously flawed and based on false assumptions. Charges against Willis were dropped but it was too late for Willingham who had already been strapped to a gurney and murdered by lethal injection. As he was being killed Willingham said: "I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit."

Evidence that Willingham was being killed for a crime he did not commit was given to Republican Governor Rick Perry at the judicial murder but Perry refused to stop the killing. Even one of the original fire investigators admitted the conclusions they drew were flawed. As he put it, "we were still testifying to things that aren't accurate today. They were true then, but they aren't now." Of course they were not true then either but what he means is that they thought they were true and were wrong. Perry has commented through a spokesman saying he considered all the factors. The judge who sentenced Willingham to death, John Jackson, refuses to admit he could be wrong. He says he has no reservations whatsoever about taking this man's life.

One official who investigated the fire, Manuel Vasquez, says that "Fire talks to you" and that he can interpret it and never makes a mistake because "fire does not lie. It tells me the truth." Vasquez says that of the almost 1,500 fires he investigated that almost all of them were the result of arson and he is confident his appraisals have been correct 100 percent of the time. Experts who reviewed Vasquez's record dispute this however. And state records dispute the claim that almost all fires are arson related.