Rick Perry made more head-scratching public comments yesterday about Cameron Todd Willingham, a likely innocent man executed in 2004.
I suggest folks take a look at the process when it’s over with and the results. I think that’s really important…..What’s most important is an appropriate answer and that’s what we’re going to do….I think the court has made a decision and I agree with the courts. So, unless there’s some change of that ruling, I agree with the courts.”
In the first sentence, Perry asks for patience to let the process work. As Grits has pointed out, we will know soon enough whether John Bradley — the prosecutor Perry chose to head the Forensic Science Commission — is committed to the Willingham investigation.
Perry also argues that he’s simply agreeing with the courts’ rulings in the case. That’s true.
But I will note that in death penalty cases, the governor has an explicit role in the process that’s separate from the courts.
Perry reviewed the Willingham case before the execution. The governor’s role isn’t to just rubber-stamp court rulings. It’s supposed to be another check in the system before someone is put to death.
Moreover, Perry was given mitigating evidence — which wasn’t available to the trial or appeals courts — that showed the forensics in the case were utterly flawed. And yet he allowed the execution to go forward.
I don’t begrudge Perry the right to defend himself, especially on an issue that’s become so politicized just months before an election. And, yes, the courts sent Willingham to the execution chamber. But Perry had a hand in it too.