Has Perry Weathered the Willingham Scandal?



Dave Mann

We haven’t heard much lately about the Cameron Todd Willingham case — not since a state Senate committee hearing early last month.

Makes me wonder if the scandal surrounding Willingham — and Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to replace three members of the Forensic Science Commission just days before a key hearing on the case — hasn’t blown over, just as Perry’s office hoped it would.

When the scandal broke in late September, a lot people wondered why on earth Perry would replace the commissioners? Didn’t he know how bad it looked?

Perry was clearly aiming to endure controversy in the near term in hopes it would die down well before the election.

That play seems to have worked.

Most of the details of the case have already surfaced. And with Williamson Co. D.A. John Bradley — the newly installed head of the Forensic Science Commission — slow walking the Willingham inquiry, Perry appears to have sidestepped major political damage from what appeared — two months ago — to be a major scandal.

It was a controversy — replete with features on CNN and in national newspapers bashing the governor — that might have sunk other candidates.

Of course, there may yet be more revelations in the case. One missing piece is what exactly Perry and his people did with the report they received just 88 minutes before the execution that debunked much of the evidence against Willingham.

But for the moment, the scandal seems to have dissipated. That’s a major political victory for the governor.

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Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.