If you haven't heard, a major crime was committed five years ago.
Texas executed an innocent man. His name was Cameron Todd Willingham.
He was accused of murdering his three daughters by burning down the family home.
Arson investigators declared it was arson. The "science" they used wasn't science at all. Their techniques have since been widely discredited by numerous independent and state-appointed experts in the same way 30 years of FBI bullet-matching technology was discredited a few years ago.
It's hard for a jury to ignore the conclusions of a declared expert, even though the investigators who determined it was arson weren't really experts. They quickly convicted Willingham.
His case went through the standard appeals process, much of which isn't concerned about evaluating new evidence but rather about making sure there were no irregularities or legal technicalities during the original trial. He was denied every time.
But before he was to be executed, attorneys asked for a three-day delay to allow a court to examine new evidence by a real arson expert that showed "there is not a single item of physical evidence in this case which supports a finding of arson." All of the evidence was bogus. Still, Gov. Rick Perry refused to grant a stay of execution. A host of other top-notch arson investigators have since come to the same conclusion: There was no arson - and therefore, no murders.
No reasonable person looking at the new evidence would consider Willingham anything but innocent. Perry's decision seems anything but reasonable. There was no evidence of arson. None.
Just days before Craig Beyler, maybe the country's foremost arson expert, was to testify before a panel investigating the case, Perry short-circuited the process. He swiftly replaced a handful of commission members, including the chairman, with a political ally. The panel's findings -- which would have definitively declared that Texas executed an innocent man under Perry's watch -- would likely have been released not too long before Perry stands for re-election in a tough campaign against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
What Perry is doing is disgusting and should send chills up the spines, not only of Texans, but of Americans everywhere. An innocent Willingham supposedly had a fair trial and was afforded years of appeals, yet he was executed anyway.
And instead of his governor demanding a full accounting of what happened to improve the system, to make sure this doesn't happen again, he denies the obvious and pretends it's simply a case of liberals trying to repeal the death penalty.
That's funny. Because folks like Perry have been forever declaring that conservatives such as he are the ones most concerned about true justice.
I hope they will start demanding just that in the Willingham case, despite Perry's revolting objections.