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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Results of Public Information Act request regarding letters to Perry left at Governor's Mansion by families of innocent men



We received a response today to the Public Information Act request that we submitted to Governor Perry asking what happened to the two letters that were left for him by the families of Carlos De Luna and Cameron Todd Willingham at the governor's mansion on the day of the 7th Annual March to Stop Executions. The response from Governor Perry's office said the two letters were received and sent to the constituent services office. We also requested that they send us any responses that Perry had sent to the families, but they said that no response had been sent. At least, we know that they received the letters and didn't just throw them in the trash. They are now part of the historical record at the Texas Governor's office.

Here is a previous post about the delivery:

Choking back tears and accompanied by 300 supporters standing outside the gates of the Texas Governor's Mansion, the sister of Carlos De Luna delivered a letter to Gov Perry on October 28, 2006 asking him to stop executions and investigate the case of her brother to determine if he was wrongfully executed. Mary Arredondo slipped the letter, along with a copy of an article from the Chicago Tribune that concluded that her brother was innocent, through the bars of the front gate of the mansion and left it lying on the walkway leading to the front door of the mansion. A DPS trooper on duty refused to take the letter, so Mary left it on the walkway. The action was part of the 7th Annual March to Stop Executions.

The 300 supporters standing beside Mary Arredondo carried signs saying, “THE DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM IS BROKEN" on the top of the signs and different slogans at the bottom listing various problems with the Texas death penalty system that can lead to innocent people being executed, including "NO STATEWIDE PUBLIC DEFENDER SERVICE", "PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT", "NO INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO REVIEW THE SYSTEM" and other problems.

After delivering the letter, Mary joined the crowd in a march to Austin City Hall for a rally against the death penalty.


The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
Austin, Texas

October 28, 2006

Dear Governor Perry,

My name is Mary Arredondo. Carlos De Luna was my brother. He was an innocent person executed by Texas on December 7, 1989. I have come to the Texas Governor’s Mansion today to personally deliver this letter to you. It is too late to save my brother’s life, but it is not too late to take steps to prevent other innocent people from being executed. I am writing to ask that you provide the leadership to make sure that Texas never executes another innocent person.

My brother claimed his innocence from the time of his arrest until his execution. He named another man as the real killer. The Chicago Tribune has recently published the results of their investigation that concluded that my brother was the victim of a case of mistaken identity and the most likely killer was a man named Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez's relatives and friends have recounted how he repeatedly bragged that my brother went to Death Row for a murder Hernandez committed. I am enclosing a copy of the Tribune article for you to read.

Please look into my brother’s case and ask the District Attorney in Corpus Christi to reopen the investigation into the crime for which my brother was wrongfully executed.

I also ask you to support a moratorium on executions and to create a special blue ribbon commission to study the administration of the death penalty in Texas in order to prevent other innocent people from being executed and to propose reforms to ensure the fair and accurate administration of the death penalty in Texas. In addition, I ask you to support an Innocence Commission that would be charged with investigating claims of innocence from people before they are executed and cases of people that have been wrongfully executed, as well as cases of innocent people who have been exonerated in order to determine what went wrong in the system that resulted in an innocent person being convicted.

There are other reforms that will help prevent innocent people from being convicted and executed, such as establishing a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases and increasing the amount of money paid to attorneys representing indigent defendants and the amount of money available to them to conduct investigations. Of course, the best way to prevent innocent people from being executed is to end the use of the death penalty and instead sentence people convicted of capital crimes to life without the possibility of parole.

Thank you for reading my letter. I hope that you will do whatever is necessary to prevent other innocent people from suffering the fate of my brother.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Arredondo



The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
Austin, Texas

October 28, 2006

Dear Governor Perry,

We are the family of Cameron Todd Willingham. Our names are Eugenia Willingham, Trina Willingham Quinton and Joshua Easley. Todd was an innocent person executed by Texas on February 17, 2004. We have come to Austin today from Ardmore, Oklahoma to stand outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion and attempt to deliver this letter to you in person, because we want to make sure that you know about Todd’s innocence and to urge you to stop executions in Texas and determine why innocent people are being executed in Texas.

Todd was not the only innocent person who has been executed in Texas. There have been reports in the media that Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna were also innocent people who were executed in Texas. It is too late to save Todd’s life or the lives of Ruben Cantu or Carlos De Luna, but it is not too late to save other innocent people from being executed. We are here today to urge you to be the leader that Texas needs in order to make sure that Texas never executes another innocent person. There is a crisis in Texas regarding the death penalty and we ask you to address the crisis. Because the public can no longer be certain that Texas is not executing innocent people, we urge you to stop all executions.

Strapped to a gurney in Texas' death chamber, just moments from his execution for setting a fire that killed his three daughters, our son/uncle, Todd Willingham, declared his innocence one last time, saying "I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do." Todd is now dead and can no longer speak for himself, so we have come to Austin to speak for him.

Before Todd’s execution, you were given a report from a prominent fire scientist questioning the conviction, but you did not stop the execution. The author of the report, Gerald Hurst, has said, "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire."

Another report issued in 2006 by a panel of national arson experts brought together by the Innocence Project concluded that the fire that killed Todd’s three daughters was an accident. The report says that Todd’s case is very similar to the case of Ernest Willis, who was convicted of arson murder and sentenced to death in 1987. Willis served 17 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2004 – the same year Todd was executed. The report says that neither of the fires which Todd and Ernest Willis were convicted of setting were arson. The report notes that the evidence and forensic analysis in the Willingham and Willis cases "were the same," and that "each and every one" of the forensic interpretations that state experts made in both men's trials have been proven scientifically invalid. In other words, Todd was executed based on “junk science”.

Please look into our son/uncle’s case and ask the District Attorney in Corsicana to reopen the investigation into the crime for which my brother was wrongfully executed. You should also establish an Innocence Commission in the next session of the Texas Legislature that could investigate my brother’s case, as well as other cases of possible wrongful executions, such as Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna.

Please ensure that no other family suffers the tragedy of seeing one of their loved ones wrongfully executed. Please enact a moratorium on executions and create a special blue ribbon commission to study the administration of the death penalty in Texas. Texas also needs a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases. Such an office will go a long way towards preventing innocent people from being executed. A moratorium will ensure that no other innocent people are executed while the system is being studied and reforms implemented.

We look forward to hearing from you and we pledge to work with you to ensure that executions of innocent people are stopped.

Yours sincerely,

Eugenia Willingham
Stepmother of Cameron Todd Willingham who raised him from the age of 13 months


Trina Willingham Quinton
Niece of Cameron Todd Willingham


Joshua Easley
Nephew of Cameron Todd Willingham

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