8/14/14

Rick Perry Continues to Deny Wrongdoing in Cameron Todd Willingham Case

I'm not sure if another reporter's asked Rick Perry about this yet, but during his not-considering-running-for-president-again-wink-nod campaign stop near Ames Monday I probed the Texas governor on the latest developments casting doubt over Cameron Todd Willingham's guilt that were reported last week by the Marshall Project. Perry's response, as expected, was the denial of any wrongdoing by the Texas justice system and its "open and ... thoughtful process."

For the uninitiated: Cameron Todd Willingham was a man executed on Texas' death row in 2004 for allegedly setting fire to his home, killing his three children — but as many reporters have shown, none better than the New Yorker's brilliant David Grann in "Trial by Fire," he was almost certainly innocent.

Grann's story focused largely on the incompetent arson investigation that led to Willingham's conviction. But John Jackson, the prosecutor in the case, has argued that even if that investigation was flawed, the testimony of a jailhouse snitch still proved Willingham's guilt. Not quite: despite Jackson's denials, documents obtained by the Marshall Project (based on evidence reported earlier this year) revealed that he offered to reduce the informer's sentence for armed robbery and funnel him thousands of dollars if he kept in line.

Perry's response to my question about Jackson's misconduct, which, had it been revealed while Willingham was still alive, could have been grounds for a new trial: "I really don't have any quotes about any response to someone who thinks they may have found something. We have a very open and, I think, a thoughtful process."