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Will Rick Perry Kill Another Innocent Man?

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Texas governor and Republican presidential contender Rick Perry has faced criticism from the left (and applause from the right) for his heavy-handed use of the death penalty. And Perry has said that he loses no sleep over the possibility that he may have executed an innocent man.

This is despite the fact that it appears that Perry has done just that - and could very likely do it again very soon.

In 2004, Texas death row prisoner Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for an alleged arson that claimed the lives of his three daughters in 1991. However, a later forensic review of the case led to the conclusion that "a finding of arson could not be sustained." In other words, the fire for which Willingham was executed was probably just an accident.

Instead of acknowledging that an innocent man may have been executed, and working to correct the system that allowed such a grievous error, Governor Perry appears to have taken steps to impede the investigation into the Willingham fiasco.

And now we have another Texas death row prisoner, Henry Watkins "Hank" Skinner, facing a November 9 execution date for a triple murder, despite the existence of untested DNA evidence that Skinner says could prove his innocence.

Skinner had been convicted and sentenced to death for the New Year's Eve murder in 1993 of his girlfriend Twila Busby and her two adult sons. The DNA in question went untested during the original trial because Skinner's attorney was afraid that it could incriminate his client - a decision that Skinner contends he never agreed with.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Skinner may pursue a civil rights claim to obtain the DNA testing. In the meantime, however, Texas has jumped the gun. Instead of waiting for the civil rights suit to unfold, and for the DNA to be tested to ensure they've got the right guy, the state went ahead and scheduled the November execution.

What are they afraid of - the possibility that Skinner's conviction, like Willingham's, might be proven wrong?

Governor Perry, as noted above, has bragged that he really does not care. Neither, apparently, does anyone else in charge of the busiest death chamber in the country.

Killing a prisoner, apparently, is more important to them than killing the right prisoner.

Killing a prisoner, apparently, is more important to them than true justice.

 

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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