Today I am ashamed to be a lawyer from Texas. The recent issue of the New Yorker had a story about one confirmed case where the State of Texas put an innocent man to death. Mostly because the Texas Board of Parole and Pardon did not READ a forensic report in the man’s file!
Cameron Todd Willingham woke up one December morning in 1991 to his house burning in fire. He was found by a neighbor in the porch with soot on his chest, screaming, “My babies are burning up.” Even though by fireman’s accounts, he tried disparately to run into the burning house and save his three children, he could not. The fire was too intense and the firemen restrained him. His children died. The forensic report from Texas said that the fire was intentionally caused by Mr. Willingham. The Defense Attorney wanted him to plead guilty for a life sentence, but Mr. Willingham said he would not plead guilty to a crime he did not commit. This was taken by the Court to be a sign of unrepentance, and he was, like so many others in Texas put on death row.
However the forensic report was based on witchcraft and had NO scientific merit. Dr. Gerald Hurst, a Nationally acclaimed forensic expert studied his file pro bono and concluded that there was NO WAY the fire could have been started intentionally. He concluded that the forensic evidence in Wigginham’s trial was based on “junk Science.” But the members on the Texas Board of Pardon and Parole did not even bother to read the Hurst report!
Texas has the highest death penalty rate than any other democracy. We put God knows how many innocent people to death. How are we different from North Korea, Iran or China? And if we are the same, how can we morally criticize those countries?
From all over the world people come to the United States as a beckon of freedom and liberty. We don’t hesitate to lecture to other countries whenever we see any breach of freedom. Yet we put innocent people to death! Shame on Texas and shame on all the lawyers who are licensed to practice in this State. And that includes me.
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