The Man Who Killed Cameron Todd Willingham

An update on this story which I wrote about back in 2009.

Can we call it murder when a corrupt prosecutor uses an unjust system to do it?

On Wednesday it was reported that John H. Jackson has been formally accused of misconduct by the State Bar of Texas in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. You may remember the Willingham story from David Grann’s epic and groundbreaking 2009 New Yorker article on the Corsicana father who was convicted in 1991 of murdering his three children by setting his home on fire. It turned out that the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham was completely bogus, but when this exculpatory information was presented to then-Gov. Rick Perry, he went ahead with the execution anyways. Willingham died at 6:20 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2004.

What’s perhaps more sickening than the neglected forensic evidence in this case is the other work that Jackson, the prosecuting attorney, did to win a conviction and see that Willingham’s every appeal was denied. These efforts include allegedly coercing and paying off a jailhouse informant to testify that Willingham had confessed to him, lying to the jury about whether the informant had been offered any benefits in exchange for his testimony, and withholding the informant’s recantation while Willingham sat on death row. Or, as the Marshall Project, which has been reporting on Jackson’s alleged misdeeds for the past year, described the state bar’s accusations: “obstruction of justice, making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense.”

“Before, during, and after the 1992 trial, [Jackson] knew of the existence of evidence that tended to negate the guilt of Willingham and failed to disclose that evidence to defense counsel,” the state bar alleged in its formal complaint.

This case makes me want to scream and cry all over again. Remember the applause by Republican primary voters when Rick Perry defended Texas’ use of the death penalty? Remember this?

“I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place,” Perry said. “When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that’s required.”

Perry said the death penalty should be dealt with on a state-by-state basis but supports the decision of Texas to uphold the death penalty, calling it the “ultimate justice.”

“In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

Does that apply to a corrupt prosecutor who made sure an innocent man was killed by a broken state system? Just wondering.

Remember this from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2006, voted with a majority to uphold the death penalty in a Kansas case. In his opinion, Scalia declared that, in the modern judicial system, there has not been “a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.”

Again, I repeat: here ya go, Justice Scalia. Here’s your single case. There are undoubtedly numerous others. But of course, Scalia already knows about this case, eeing as how SCOTUS refused to hear Willingham’s appeal.

Useless idiots, every single one of them. It’s just too hard to admit that you’ve been making serious mistakes all this years and try to fix it. Instead, let’s pretend everything is awesome. What a joke.

6 Comments

Filed under death penalty

6 responses to “The Man Who Killed Cameron Todd Willingham

  1. Moira MacGaothin

    Scalia will never be able to be informed. He is a conservative fundamentalist Catholic. He believes in fairy dust and miracles. His god never makes mistakes. And he thinks he is a god as well.

  2. GregH

    The prosecutor in the Willingham case deserves to spend some quality time with the people he sent up. I cannot imagine anything more sickeningly grotesque than suffering the tragic loss of one’s children and then being falsely accused, convicted and executed for their murder through the criminal actions of a rogue prosecutor. It beggars the imagination how something so wrong on so many levels could have ever been allowed in this day and age.

    • The way this case was bungled the only thing that’s shocking is that Willingham is white.

      But here’s the thing about the death penalty: there is this culture that encourages death penalty convictions. Louisiana is just as bad as Texas. Prosecutors are rewarded for death penalty convictions. There’s this culture that says you can’t advance in your career unless you get death penalty convictions. If you want to be a judge, for example. I read somewhere that Louisiana has an unofficial “award” for the prosecutor who gets the most death penalty convictions in one year — it’s a picture of a pelican (the state bird) with a hypodermic needle in its mouth.

      • GregH

        Sickening. I guess we should just go back to public hangings – people want death, give them death. Require school children to watch it. Sheesh. (I mention that as a sick joke, but I bet good money some dipshit GOP state legislator would say, “Great idea!” and draft a bill!)

      • Gee I thought that’s what “shock and awe” was all about.

        #cynical

  3. Boy, I would rillllllllllllllly be upset if somebody set that asshole prosecutor on fire.