Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Public Information Request Submitted Concerning Visit of Todd Willingham and Ex-Wife

Criminal Justice blogger Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast has submitted a Public Information Request to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to try to obtain information regarding the last visit between Todd Willingham and his ex-wife Stacy Kuykendall before his execution in 2004. He writes about his PIR in his post "Did Todd Willingham confess or did Stacy Kuykendall lie?"

I don't know which time Kuykendall was telling the truth or what was her motive when she didn't, but I know for sure it can't all be accurate. That fact can't be overcome just from sympathy for her unfortunate and painful history. It's regrettable that she put herself in that position in such a high-profile case, but that's where we are.

It did strike me that there might be a way to find out for sure whether Todd Willingham really confessed. TDCJ is set up to electronically record non-attorney visitations with death row inmates. Their online policies say they "may" record visits, but I've been told in the past they record all of them on death row except those with the inmates' attorneys. To find out for sure, I spoke this morning with TDCJ's lead PR person, Michelle Lyons, but she could not confirm whether all conversations are recorded or only selected ones. No one had ever asked her that question, she said, though I'm willing to bet in light of recent events I won't be the last one who wants to know. So to get more information, I filed an open records request today asking for the following information:
  • Any TDCJ policies regarding recording of conversations during death-row inmates' non-attorney visitations, including any policy describing how often recording occurs, under what circumstances, whether every call is recorded, what is done with the recordings, who has access to them, how long they're kept, what documentation must be maintained, etc..
  • Any log or record of recordings from visitations for now-deceased death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham.
  • Any log or record of who has accessed or listened to recordings from visitations for now-deceased death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham.
  • The tape or audio file (in whatever format it's maintained in) of any recorded visitations with Cameron Todd Willingham during the month before his execution.
Maybe we can get to the bottom of this confession question once and for all.

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