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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eugenia Willingham Writes Article About Todd, "So many questions that refuse to go away"

Eugenia Willingham has written an article published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram entitled, "So many questions that refuse to go away".

Nearly 18 years ago, a long nightmare began for my family. Every time we think the truth is finally coming to light, a new twist reopens old wounds.

In 1991 my stepson, Cameron Todd Willingham, woke up to discover his Corsicana house on fire. The events that followed have been twisted by people with their own agenda. I am speaking out now because it is time for the truth in this case.

The evidence that was used to convict Todd has been discredited by experts and witnesses. Since Todd’s execution in 2004, several independent experts have concluded that the forensic analysis at Todd’s trial was wrong.

Gov. Rick Perry ignored an expert’s report about the evidence and refused to delay Todd’s execution. Five years later, Perry has interfered with the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s investigation of the case. It’s not clear when the commission will resume its work, but our family hopes it happens soon.

Meanwhile, Perry and others — including the man who prosecuted Todd, the defense attorney from Todd’s trial who I think defended him very poorly, and some members of the media in Texas — have focused on Todd’s character. For weeks, my family and I have seen reports about what a "monster" Todd was. The truth is that Todd was sometimes difficult, and his marriage was not always a happy one. That’s not a crime punishable by lethal injection.

When Todd was 13 months old, I married his father and we raised him together. I found a boy who was angry and confused, but also smart and compassionate. I helped that boy grow into a man who did everything he could to provide for his family and fill his children’s lives with love.

Todd loved his children. We all did. I have always believed he was innocent, even before the recent revelations about the evidence that was used against him.

I don’t want to walk through every detail of the evidence, but there are two new arguments from the media and others that I want to address.

First, Todd’s ex-wife reportedly says now that he confessed to her. I don’t believe this is true. More importantly, I don’t understand how anyone can believe what his ex-wife says, given how much her story has changed and how often it has changed. In my eyes, she is simply not credible after so many versions of this story, which makes the evidence — or lack thereof — all the more important.

Second, the fact that Todd didn’t run into a burning home is not proof that he set the fire. He tried to go back into the house and authorities had to restrain him. Even if that weren’t the case, human instinct prevents people from running into fires that will kill them. We may all think we would run into a serious fire to rescue someone, but human nature takes over in the moment.

People are entitled to their opinions about the death penalty. But we don’t execute people for having a bad marriage and a complicated personality.

My family has lost three beautiful little children and their loving father. We want answers. We want to know how the justice system got so badly off-track in Todd’s case, and we want to know how many other families have been devastated by erroneous evidence in arson cases in Texas.

Attacking my son won’t change the troubling lack of evidence in his case, and it won’t answer questions that refuse to go away.

Eugenia Willingham of Ardmore, Okla., is the stepmother of Cameron Todd Willingham.

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Contact Board of Pardons and Paroles to Urge Clemency for Khristian Oliver, Whose Jury Consulted the Bible During Deliberations on Death Penalty

Kristian Oliver, who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Thursday, November 5, was sentenced to death by a jury whose members consulted the Bible during their deliberations of whether Oliver should receive the death penalty.

During deliberations on sentencing, one of the jurors apparently read the following passage aloud to his fellow jurors: “And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.” Another juror, a death penalty supporter, later told the media that “about 80 per cent” of the jurors had “brought scripture into the deliberation”, and that if civil law and biblical law were in conflict, the latter should prevail. And he said that if he had been told he could not consult the Bible, “I would have left the courtroom.”

According to the Waco Tribune:

Lawyers for Oliver argued in their appeals that the jury had been improperly swayed by Bibles that some jurors had brought with them into their deliberations. The case became the subject of a documentary Eye for an Eye and a book by Danish journalist Egon Clausen.

But the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August 2008 that while the Bibles should not have been allowed into the deliberation room, there was no clear evidence to indicate they had affected the jurors’ decision. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Oliver’s appeal, and on June 29, 145th District Court Judge Campbell Cox set a Nov. 5 execution date.

Please contact the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles by letter or fax and ask them to commute Khristian Oliver's sentence to life.

Please express your concern that jurors at Khristian Oliver’s trial consulted the Bible during their sentencing deliberations and urge the Board to recommend that the Governor commute Khristian Oliver’s death sentence.

Call Governor Perry at 512 463 1782 or by contacting him through his website to accept a recommendation to commute Oliver's sentence, or if such a recommendation is not forthcoming, to issue a 30-day stay of execution.

You may further explain that you are not seeking to excuse violent crime or to downplay the suffering caused to its victims.

Rissie L. Owens
Presiding Officer, Board of Pardons and Paroles,
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757
Fax: 1 512 467 0945
Salutation: Dear Ms Owens


Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2428
Fax: 1 512 463 1849
Salutation: Dear Governor Perry

More on the case from the Guardian:

The Texas jury didn't hesitate to find Khristian Oliver guilty of shooting and bludgeoning an elderly man to death. Oliver had stood over his bleeding victim, repeatedly hitting him in the head with a rifle butt before robbing his house.

But then came the difficult decision over whether to sentence Oliver to death, and that's when the Bibles came into their own.

A clutch of jurors huddled in the corner with one reading aloud from the Book of Numbers: "The murderer shall surely be put to death" and "The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer."

Another juror highlighted passages which she showed to a fellow juror: "And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, the murderer shall surely be put to death."

Ten years later Oliver, now 32, is just three weeks from execution. Two appeals courts have rejected his pleas for the jury's death sentence in 1999 to be overturned on the grounds it was improperly influenced by references to the Bible. Some of the jurors have made no secret of the part their religious beliefs played in reaching their decision but the US supreme court has refused to take up a case that has been condemned as "a travesty".

Amnesty International has said the use of biblical references "to decide life or death in a capital trial is deeply, deeply troubling" and called on the authorities in Texas, which has carried out nearly half of the 39 executions in the US this year, to commute the sentence.

Oliver's lawyers called four members of the jury that convicted him to testify at an appeal hearing. At the hearing, one of them, Kenneth McHaney described how another juror, Kenneth Grace, read the Bible aloud to a group of jurors.

Donna Matheny showed McHaney a Bible in which she highlighted passages including one that "says that if a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, then he is a murderer and should be put to death".

Maxine Symmank told the court that she too had read a passage from the Book of Numbers: "And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death." Another juror, Michael Brenneisen, told a journalist in 2002 that he asked himself "Is this the way the Lord would decide the case?" But Brenneisen also said that in discussing the Bible the jury "went both directions in our use of the scripture - forgiveness and judgement".

McHaney said there were about four Bibles in the jury room.

A Texas state appeal court rejected Oliver's plea to strike down the sentence because, it said, he had not "presented clear and convincing evidence" that the Bible influenced the jury's decision. The court acknowledged that there was reference to the Bible by the jurors but said it was not improper. It said "a conscientious, dedicated" jury was "uninfluenced by any outside influence of any kind shown to the court in this hearing".

A federal appeal court disagreed, saying that references to the Bible inside the jury room were improper but it still refused to overturn the death sentence on the grounds that Oliver's lawyers had not proved that the readings influenced the death penalty decision. The court ruled that the jurors would have applied their own moral judgements which would, in any case, have been influenced by their religious beliefs.

Oliver's lawyer until last month, Winston Cochran, said the rulings are the result of an impossible situation in which he was prevented at the first appeal hearing from directly asking the jurors if the Bible readings had an influence on their decision. The federal court then turned down a subsequent appeal on the grounds that the jurors had not explicitly said they were swayed by the Bible.

"We were prohibited from asking the question we were later being asked to prove," he said.

Cochran also criticised the appeal court view that jurors were merely applying moral beliefs they already held.

"The problem is there was testimony the Bible was passed around and shown to people. It was part of the discussion. It wasn't just used by individuals to reinforce their existing belief," he said.

With the supreme court refusing to take up Oliver's case, his remaining options are the Texas board of pardons and the state governor, Rick Perry. The board of pardons rarely recommends clemency and Perry is unlikely to set aside a death sentence in a deeply religious state on the grounds that jurors referred to the Bible.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CNN Publishes Letters From Death Row by Todd Willingham, Including One to His Ex-Wife Stacy from 2000

CNN has published some letters written by Todd Willingham while he was on death row. They include a letter to his ex-wife Stacy from 2000, another to his stepmother Eugenia (dated 1994), a postcard to his friend Elizabeth Gilbert from 2001, and another to someone in which he writes about death.

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Charges Dismissed Against Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen in Yogurt Shop case: Springsteen Once Was Sentenced to Death in Case

From the Austin American-Statesman:

Travis County prosecutors moved to dismiss the murder indictments against the two remaining defendants in the 1991 yogurt shop murders after announcing in court today that they are still looking for the person whose DNA was found last year in one of the four teenage victims.

Assistant District Attorney Efrain De La Fuente said in court that the decision came because state District Judge Mike Lynch has ordered that a continuance in the case to conduct further DNA testing would not be considered.

“We are still testing,” he said.

The packed courtroom was quiet after Lynch ordered the dismissals. Defendants Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, who were once both convicted in the case, hugged their lawyers and supporters in court.

Outside the courtroom, lawyers for the defendants called on authorities to find the real killers.

“Those men that did this back in 1991, they left DNA in there,” said Scott lawyer Carlos Garcia. .”And I don’t know if those guys are still alive …but we have your DNA and sooner or later we are going to match your face to it.”

Springsteen lawyer Joe James Sawyer said that he and his client believe that it is the families of the slain girls who have suffered the most.

“We should reserve our sympathy for the families of those girls,” Sawyer said. “That is paramount.”

Scott, gripping his wife’s hand, was reserved outside court.

“This has been a long time in coming,” he said. “I’m happy to be here.”

At a press conference following the hearing, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg issued a statement that said in part: “Make no mistake, this is a difficult decision and one I would rather not have to make. I believe it is the best legal and strategic course to take and is the one that leaves us in the best possible posture to ultimately retry both Springsteen and Scott.”

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Breaking News: Charges Dropped in the Yogurt Shop Case

Our members at the Travis County courthouse are reporting that Judge Lynch has dropped all charges in the the Yogurt Shop case. Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott are both a free man!

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Video of Last Night's Protest in Austin as Reginald Blanton was Executed in Huntsville; Reginald's Mother and Supporters from their Chuch Attended

Last night in Austin, Reginald Blanton's mother and members of her church from San Antonio joined more than 60 supporters at the Texas Capitol to stand protest as the execution of her son was taking place in Huntsville Texas. Also in attendance to protest the execution were two innocent, exonerated former death row prisoners, Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty. Shujaa spent 3 years on death row in California and Curtis spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma.

Reginald's last words:

Yes I do. I know ya'lls pain, believe me I shed plenty of tears behind Carlos. Carlos was my friend. I didn't murder him. This what is happening right now is an injustice. This doesn't solve anything. This will not bring back Carlos. Ya'll fought real hard here to prove my innocence. This is only the beginning. I love each and everyone dearly. Dre My queen. I love you. Yaws, Junie I love yall. Stay strong, continue to fight. They are fixing to pump my veins with a lethal drug the American Veterinary Association won't even allow to be used on dogs. I say I am worse off than a dog. They want to kill me for this; I am not the man that did this. Fight on. I will see ya'll again. That's all I can say.
Reginald became the 442nd person executed in Texas since 1982 and the 203rd person executed since Rick Perry took office. Rick Perry himself was in New York last night, so he does not very care much about his responsibilities as governor when it comes to capital punishment.

Watch video of last night's protest on YouTube. The video was taken by Hooman Hedayati.



Anna Terrell also delivered a powerful speech at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Saturday calling for Rick Perry to stop the execution of her son and calling for an end to capital punishment (video on YouTube).

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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?"
Excerpt:


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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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Video of Walter Reaves, Todd Willingham's Appellate Lawyer, Speaking at 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty

Walter Reaves was the appellate attorney for Todd Willingham. He fought for Todd through his wrongful execution and continues to fight to prove that Todd was innocent. Click here to watch the video on YouTube of Walter Reaves speaking at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24, 2009 at the Texas Capitol in Austin.



Walter Reaves' entire practice is dedicated to providing quality representation to those who have been convicted of criminal offenses. He specialize in post-trial matters in both state and federal Courts anywhere in the state of Texas. One of his proudest accomplishments was obtaining the release of Calvin Washington who was wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years. He was also were able to obtain the release of Washingtons co-defendant, Joe Sydney Williams following his direct appeal, and recently was able to obtain compensation for both of them.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Texas Monthly Video of Interview with Ernest Willis Talking about Todd Willingham: "I believe Texas killed an innocent man."

Texas Monthly's Michael Hall has a video interview with Ernest Willis, an innocent man who was sentenced to death in Texas for setting an arson fire that was later determined to have been an accidental fire. Ernest was released in 2004, just eight months after Todd Willingham was executed. A couple of weeks after Ernest was released Texas Moratorium Network sent him $1,000 donated by our members who wanted to help him a little with some cash after his release, because the State of Texas on the day of his release gave him just $100 and 10 days of medication.

The transcript of the Texas Monthly interview is below:

You’re one of the only people to know what it’s like to be an innocent man on death row, but everybody else thinks you’re guilty. What did that feel like to you? When you had those two days left—we’re trying to put ourselves in the mind of [Cameron Todd Willingham] and what he was going through. What did that feel like?

Like I said, you know, I had prepared myself for it because I know on Texas death row very few people get off of Texas death row alive. And I had myself prepared pretty well for if that time come, I would just lay down and go to sleep and that would be it. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I wouldn’t be hollering and screaming. I don’t really know what my last words would be. I don’t know whether I would have said, “Well, you’re killing an innocent man” or what. But I can only imagine what Todd Willingham was going through because I come within two days of execution myself. But to be strapped down on that gurney it’s hard to say what a person would say. I know that I wouldn’t be rambunctious and yelling and all that because I prepared myself for that. But at the same time it would be really, really tough because you spend all these years knowing that you’re innocent. And that’s the hard part of being in there. If I would have been guilty of this crime, I could have took it real easy. It wouldn’t have bothered me like it did. And Todd’s case was so similar to mine—I didn’t know Todd really well, but I had talked to him several times out on the rec [recreation] yard. We discussed a little bit about our cases and found out they was nearly identical. I believe in my heart and soul that he was an innocent man. I believe Texas killed an innocent man.

The thing of it is I could have been in the same position he was in but I had the New York attorneys and had the capital to do all that. All he had was these appointed attorneys and they don’t get enough money to bring forth what it takes. If he could have hung on just three or four or five more months he would have been in the same shape I was—he would have walked out of there a free man. Because he had the same evidence I had. There was very little—you know, of course, the prosecutors make us look like animals and all this stuff. I’ve been out five years now and I’ve had no problems. I’ve started my own business. I retired about two years ago. I think I’ve been a productive person ever since I got out. I’ve helped a lot of people. With the money I got I was able to help my kids and [ex-wife] Verilyn’s kids and do a lot of things I wanted to do.

I know Governor Perry is trying to sweep this under the carpet, like hey, he was guilty as sin. Well all of us does things. They called him a monster and everything; they called me a monster. That’s the way district attorneys do. They’re exempt from prosecution. The only way the death penalty can ever be fair is to hold these district attorneys liable for the things they do. They drugged me during my trial, and I’m sure that the district attorney had something to do with that. I’m sure he ordered the medication, and I was like a zombie the whole way through my trial. But unless you have the capital and they do something about these district attorneys, it will never be that way. I mean, they can say and do whatever they want to do and they don’t have to worry about lawsuits and prosecution or anything. It needs to start there. It needs to follow up with enough money for representation. I mean, these lawyers—there are a lot of good lawyers out there. They get $20,000 or $30,000 per case. I mean, hell, you can’t ever hire an expert witness for that. It’s not a fair situation. If you have money—that’s the difference between me and Todd. I had money backing me up. Just think, if I hadn’t had no more time than Todd Willingham had they would have killed me before I could prove my innocence. It takes a long time. Even after you get the representation and money to fight this thing and dig up whatever it takes to prove your innocence. I would have been in the same shape he was. I wouldn’t be here today.

What should Governor Perry do?

I really think Governor Perry should own up to it and say, “Hey, we made a mistake.” What Governor Perry is worried about, they killed an innocent man on his watch and he’s afraid he might not get reelected. He needs to own up to it. They know that if they own up to it there’s a big lawsuit there. They’re worried about that. And he’s worried about his own hide because governors are elected. It’s like Ori White, the prosecutor that testified at my expunction hearing and he said, “Hey, the man’s innocent.” How many district attorneys or governors do you know that are going to get up there and say that? Perry needs to just own up to it and say, “Hey, we did. We killed an innocent man. And I think we need to put a moratorium on this right now, study this thing, and see what we need to do to fix this.”

To start with, just like I said: Start with the district attorney. After you finish with the district attorney, try to get more money for representation. The attorneys that handled my case worked on my case for 12 years; they spent $5 million. I know the state of Texas can’t produce like that but give them enough money where they can hire experts and do a little digging and find out the facts on the case. You know, I’m sure that most people on death row are guilty. But when I left death row I could say in my heart I thought there were at least five people that were innocent. And, you know, I haven’t named no names because I don’t know how these people would feel about me bringing their situation up.

But I think Governor Perry needs to do that right thing. We have these seven experts. My case was identical to his. He’s just trying to let it go by. And it’s not going to hush up. I’m not going to hush up. People that care about the death penalty and the people that don’t know about the death penalty need to be informed. Most people—they believe in the death penalty; they don’t know anything about it. But once in a while it strikes close to home. And then they realize this is really a dirty deal. Anyone can be walking down the street and be in the wrong place at the right time. And they can put—just like on mine—everything was circumstantial evidence. The district attorney gets up there and says, “This is the way we think it happened.” And that’s not the way it happened. How can a civilized country like America sentence men to death on circumstantial evidence like that? It’s not right.

Governor Perry, he needs to step up to the plate and admit we made a mistake. And this thing is not going to go away. It’s not going to go away. He thinks, you know, eventually it will last a little while and then it will go away but we’re not going to let it go away. It’s not going to die down—step up to the plate and do your job.

A TALE OF TWO TEXAS CASES

EXECUTED: Cameron Willingham, executed in Texas in 2004 for an arson that killed his three children. He steadfastly maintained his innocence.

FREED: Ernest Willis, freed from death row in Texas in 2004 after the arson investigation that led to his conviction was discredited.

There are many similarities between these two alledged arson cases from Texas. The main difference is that one resulted in an execution, the other in the inmate being freed.

Some similarities in the cases:

  • Both convictions were based upon the theory that accelerants were used, indicating that the fires were intentionally set.

  • Both convictions were based on speculative interpretations of "crazed glass" that was found at the crime scene. The splintered glass was originally believed to be caused by an accelerant spray. However, crazed glass may also occur when cold water that is used to put out a fire hits hot glass.

  • The deputy state fire marshal, Manuel Vasquez, testified to similar conclusions in both cases.

  • The convictions were only five years apart (Willingham in 1987, Willis in 1992). Both were appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and both were denied.

  • In both cases, reinvestigations of the evidence by fire expert Gerald Hurst stated that the burn patterns and residue were consistent with "flash over," a phenomenon unique to electrical fires, rather than being attributable to arson.

  • According to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, Wilingham's and Willis' cases were "nearly identical" based upon investigations by Hurst and Louisiana fire chief Kendall Ryland. Then- Texas deputy fire marshall Edward Cheever has admitted, since the Hurst investigation and Willingham's execution, that "we were still testifying to things that aren't accurate today. They were true then, but they aren't now... Hurst was pretty much right on. ... We know now not to make those same assumptions." (Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2004)

  • One key difference in the two cases was that Ernest Willis was represented in his federal appeals by the high-profile law firm of Latham & Watkins, which represented Willis without charge.
  • Sphere: Related Content

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Video of Mother of Reginald Blanton, Speaking at the "10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty" to Stop Her Son's Execution On October 27

    Reginald Blanton is scheduled for execution in Texas on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. On Oct 24, Anna Terrell, the mother of Reginald Blanton, spoke at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol in Austin. She was allowed to see her son for the first time in over a year on Friday, October 26.

    Call Governor Rick Perry at 512 463 1782 or send him an email through his website urging him to stop the execution of Reginald Blanton to allow him more time to prove his innocence.

    Watch Part One on YouTube.



    Part Two on YouTube.




    Reginald's older brother speaks

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    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Today is the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin at 2 PM at the Texas Capitol

    Today! October 24, 2009 at 2 PM

    Austin, Texas

    Texas State Capitol Building South Side (11th and Congress)

    Three innocent, exonerated former death row prisoners will be among the special guests today at the Tenth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty October 24, 2009 at 2 PM in Austin, Texas at the Texas Capitol on the South Steps at 11th and Congress. Also attending will be the penpal of Todd Willingham, Elizabeth Gilbert, who first investigated his innocence. Plus, Todd’s last lawyer Walter Reaves. Please attend the march to support the Willingham family as they fight to prove that Todd Willingham was innocent.

    Speakers and other confirmed attendees at the march will include three innocent, now-exonerated death row prisoners (Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty and Ron Keine), Jeff Blackburn (Chief Counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas), Jeanette Popp (a mother whose daughter was murdered but who asked the DA not to seek the death penalty), Elizabeth Gilbert (the penpal of Todd Willingham who first pushed his innocence and helped his family find a fire expert to investigate), Walter Reaves (the last attorney for Todd Willingham, who fought for him through the execution and continues to fight to exonerate him), Terri Been whose brother Jeff Wood is on death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone, and Anna Terrell the mother of Reginald Blanton who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Oct 27 three days after the march, plus others to be announced.

    The march starts at 2 PM on October 24 at the Texas Capitol. We will gather at the Texas Capitol at the gates leading into the Capitol on the sidewalk at 11th Street, march down Congress Avenue to 6th street, then back to the South Steps of the Capitol for a rally to abolish the death penalty.

    Panel Discussion: The night before the march, there will be a panel discussion on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin at 7 PM with Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty. (Thank you to Bill Pelke and the Journey of Hope for helping bring them to Austin for the march.) Shujaa and Curtis will speak about what it is like to be innocent and sentenced to death. The panel is in the Sinclair Suite (room 3.128) of the Texas Student Union on Guadalupe. Call if you need more directions 512-552-4743.

    Post-march Strategy Meeting: Immediately after the march on October 24, we plan to hold a networking and strategy meeting inside the capitol. Everyone is invited to attend the strategy session and help us plan how to move forward towards abolition in Texas. The strategy session will start about 30 minutes after the last speaker at the march.

    Now is one of the most critical times ever to march against the death penalty.

    We just learned from a state-funded report that Texas executed Todd Willingham for arson/murder even though the fire was not arson it was just a fire, so Texas executed an innocent person.

    From today's Waco Herald Tribune:

    Rally scheduled for Corsicana man executed in 2004 in arson case

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    By Cindy V. CulpTribune-Herald staff writer

    The case of a Corsicana man executed in 2004 for arson murder will be at the center of an anti-death penalty rally today at the Texas Capitol.

    Local attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr., who represented Cameron Todd Willingham during the final part of his appeals process, planned to attend the 10th annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, along with four people who were exonerated after being on death row. The event is being organized by a number of groups that oppose the death penalty.

    As part of the event, activists plan to deliver a petition to Gov. Rick Perry that urges him to say that the 1991 fire that killed Willingham’s three young daughters was not arson, said Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network. It will also ask for Texas executions to be suspended and for Perry to appoint an impartial body to examine the state’s death penalty system, he said.

    Willingham’s case, and the role Perry has played in the execution and subsequent investigation into whether it was flawed, has been in the national spotlight. Attention started mounting earlier this month after Perry abruptly replaced four people on the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission, including its chairman.

    The upheaval came shortly before the commission was set to hear a report from a fire expert hired by the panel. That expert said the arson finding was not scientifically supported, giving further weight to those who say the Willingham case offers the first credible proof of wrongful execution in modern U.S. history.

    Reaves said he was initially reluctant to participate in the rally because it could detract from the facts of Willingham’s individual case. He decided to attend, however, because it is another forum to continue pressing Willingham’s case and rebut arguments from the governor’s office, he said.

    Also highlighted at the rally will be the cases of four people who spent time on death row before being exonerated.

    If Texans take time to listen to people who have wrongly faced execution, public opinion of the practice will change, Cobb said.

    “We tell the actual facts about the death penalty, and the fact is that innocent people get convicted and get sentenced to death. And, in some cases, they are not able to prove their innocence before they are executed,” Cobb said.

    For more information about the rally or petition, go online to www.camerontoddwillingham.com.

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    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Tonight on CNN AC360: Randi Kaye Will Report on Todd Willingham; She Interviews David Martin in His Waco Office

    From the AC 360 Blog.

    Program Note: Watch Randi Kaye's full report – including her interview with David Martin tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

    A photograph of Cameron Todd Willingham.
    A photograph of Cameron Todd Willingham.

    Randi Kaye| BIO
    AC360° Correspondent

    I came to Texas this week to look deeper into a story I’ve been covering for a few years now for AC360°.

    It’s the story of Cameron Todd Willingham, a father of three who was executed in February 2004 for setting a fire that killed his three daughters. But what if he didn’t set it? What if he just got a lame defense? Is it possible?

    We wanted to know why he was convicted of “arson homicide” even though since the trial nine leading arson experts have said the fire showed no evidence of arson. So why was he executed?

    We went straight to one of Willingham’s defense attorneys, David Martin, for some answers. We met at his Waco office, hours away from where the fire took place in the tiny town of Corsicana. Martin’s office was true Texas. It felt more like a ranch than a law office. We sat down in a couple of over-sized chairs (everything is bigger in Texas, you know) and talked about the case.

    I asked Martin how it was possible that the prosecution put two experts on the stand who said the fire was arson, and yet Martin didn’t put anyone on the stand to refute their arguments. Why no expert to say the fire wasn’t arson in Willingham’s defense?

    Martin told me, “We couldn’t find one that said it wasn’t arson.”

    As a court-appointed attorney, Martin said money was hard to come by and he only had enough funds to hire one expert. And it turned out that the expert ended up agreeing with the prosecution’s experts about the fire being arson so he never put him on the stand.

    “You’re just going to abracadabra an arson investigator up to put on the stand? You have to get money,” Martin said.

    So who did Martin end up putting on stand in Willingham’s defense? A felon who was in prison with Willingham and the family’s babysitter.

    Martin told me that he thought Willingham was guilty from day one and he believed that the patterns on the floor of the house showed that an accelerant had been used. If he thought he was guilty, could he have given him a good defense?

    He said he tried everything he could to defend Willingham. He explained it this way, “you don’t have to believe somebody to defend them. You think Bailey and Cochran believed Simpson? No!”

    Martin seemed to be enjoying our back-and-forth so I thought I’d press him on one last issue.

    A juror told me just last week that she was having doubts about whether or not Todd Willingham really set the fire and was losing sleep over it all these years later. Willingham was convicted in 1992 and spent 12 years on death row before he was executed in 2004.

    Martin’s response to this? “She doesn’t need to have no doubts in my mind. He really was guilty and it doesn’t matter how many people talk about it. The evidence is irrefutable.”

    But what about the fact that this juror also told me her family was friendly with one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, Deputy Fire Marshall Doug Fogg. She said she told both the prosecution and the defense about this connection but was still chosen to be on the jury.

    I asked Martin if that would be grounds for a mistrial. Without missing a beat, he told me absolutely not. He said it wasn’t a conflict of interest because “In a small town like Corsicana, lots of people knew Doug Fogg,” and “look at the evidence that was presented at trial. Would any reasonable mind conclude after the presentation of the evidence that he was not guilty?”

    Before our interview was finished, Martin went on to call Todd Willingham a “monster” and a “sociopath”. He said Willingham was his own worst enemy and that he had so many conflicting accounts of the fire that the jury didn’t believe him.

    Sound like a defense attorney to you? Or does David Martin sound more like a prosecutor? Martin said it’s not his job to “swallow” whatever story his client tells him, but he insisted he did his best to keep Todd Willingham off death row.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Former Texas Governor Mark White Approved Execution of Man Who Did Not Kill Anyone But Was Convicted Under the Law of Parties

    Former Texas Governor Mark White has recently been in the news because he has changed his mind on the death penalty and now believes that a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is an acceptable substitute for the death penalty as a way "to make certain we didn't have unfortunate execution of an innocent person", (NPR, October 21, 2009, "Former Texas Governor Rethinks Death Penalty").

    Our question to Mark White, "Do you still think that someone convicted under the Law of Parties but who himself did not kill or intend anyone to be killed deserves the death penalty?" "Governor White, do you regret signing off on the execution of somone who did not kill anyone?"

    One of the people executed when Mark White was governor was a person who had been convicted under the Law of Parties, but who did not himself kill anyone or intend that anyone be killed. Doyle Skillern was executed on January 16, 1985. Skillern's case is similar to the cases of Kenneth Foster, Jr and Jeff Wood, in that all three of them, in their separate cases many years apart, were sitting in a car when a co-defendant killed someone. Skillern's co-defendant, Charles Sanne, testified that he (Sanne) was the triggerman, and that fact was not in dispute, as you can read in Skillern's appeal in the U.S. Fifth Circuit. The appeal also explains that

    the charge emphasized that capital murder requires that the accused "intentionally kills or causes the death of another" while in the course of robbing another, paragraphs 6 and 7 of the charge permitted the jury to find Skillern guilty of the triggerman Sanne's killing, under the Texas law of criminal responsibility, as a conspirator in a robbery attempt equally guilty of the murder by his coconspirator if the killing "was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose [of the robbery] and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy."
    From The Nation - Texan Executed for Killing:
    Doyle Skillern, condemned to die for a murder in which the confessed triggerman may soon go free, was executed by lethal injection for the 1974 slaying of Patrick Randel, an undercover narcotics officer. Skillern, 48, died at 12:23 a.m. CST in the Huntsville, Tex., death chamber. Both Gov. Mark White and the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected a reprieve. Testimony showed that Skillern waited in a car while Charles Sanne, 51, shot Randel. Sanne was sentenced to life in prison.
    Would Governor White testify in favor of a bill in the next session of the Texas Legislature that would ban executions of people convicted solely under the Law of Parties? In the last session of the Texas Legislature, such a bill was authored by Rep Terri Hodge and it passed the entire Texas House but died in the Senate after Governor Perry threatend to veto it if it reached his desk. The bill would have banned executions of people convicted solely under the Law of Parties.

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    Tonight on CNN Anderson Cooper 360: Randi Kaye Sits Down with Todd Willingham's Unethical Trial Attorney David Martin

    Tonight on CNN Anderson Cooper 360, Randi Kaye sits down with Todd Willingham's trial attorney David Martin, the one who made such a fool of himself last week on CNN. He likely will try to look less crazy tonight, but he will probably continue his unethical behavior of attacking his former client and revealing confidential attorney-client communications.

    Here is what happened after David Martin's last appearance on CNN. One blogger named him the "Worst Defense Lawyer In The World".

    Last Friday morning, we posted the video from last Thursday's CNN AC 360 program when Todd Willingham's trial lawyer was on the program and made remarks that we thought violated his attorney-client obligations, which bind a lawyer even after his client has died. Now, some attorneys have begun posting about David Martin and some also seem to agree that Martin violated his ethical obligations as an attorney to his former client.

    After reading this blog post, if you are think David Martin should be investigated, click here to download a grievance form and send it to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, State Bar of Texas.

    Yesterday, TMN sent an email to attorney and blogger Mark Bennett with a link to the CNN video and asked if he saw an ethics violation. He replied by posting his thoughts on his blog here.

    My position is that a) all facts the lawyer learns in the course of representation is privileged; and b) this privilege survives the end of representation and the client’s death. So, for example, the fact that the defense team did its own pseudoscientific experiment would be privileged and not something that the ex-lawyer would be free to reveal (without the client’s permission).
    Todd Willingham's appellate lawyer, Walter Reaves, has also now responded to what David Martin said on CNN,
    as a lawyer you ought to have some duty to not damage your client. At the very least, Mr. Martin is damaging Todd's reputation, and his ability to obtain some relief in through the forensic commission. The fact that he aligning himself with Gov. Perry ought to tell you something.
    At least three other lawyers have now also posted their thoughts on David Martin. Here is one on her blog "Preaching to the Choir".
    I have nothing nice to say about David Martin after watching this appalling performance, so perhaps I should not say anything at all. Except, I have no duty of loyalty to David Martin. But I do feel a duty of loyalty to my profession. I happen to think that defending people is one of the most noble things you can do. I can go on quite a tear about how we defenders of the constitution are the true patriots and the most noble actors of all in the criminal justice system. I take my job seriously. Very seriously. My clients trust me with their lives, just as Todd Willingham had to trust David Martin. As much as I rail against prosecutors and cops who bend the rules or cut corners, no one offends me more than the defense attorney who does not live up to my high ideals for the profession. From what I've seen in this video, David Martin is the kind of defense attorney I don't ever want to be.
    Here is another, Scott Greenfield, who says
    Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Martin has no grossly improper motive, like he's been promised a judgeship by Perry if he does everything in his power to undermine the evidence of Willingham's innocence. If Martin truly believes what he's saying to be true, his statements are the most irresponsible, unethical, improper I have ever heard from the mouth of a criminal defense lawyer. Outrageously wrong. Utterly disgraceful.
    Here is a third, Jeff Gamso:
    So we know that Martin was spouting bullshit. (He claimed to have just returned from "chasing cows," so maybe there's a reason.) We also know that at least one thing he talked about, the lighter fluid experiment, is covered by the work-product privilege. It's a secret. He had no business telling anyone. A clear violation of his ethical obligations.

    And then there's the matter of going on the air to declare his client guilty. Why in the world would he do that? To garner business? Unlikely. That's not the way you attract clients. For the glory of national television? Some people just can't resist. Whatever the reason, he was wrong. Whatever he was thinking, he wasn't thinking enough. That duty of loyalty. That obligation not to disadvantage. That lack of judgment. That putting his own interests before his client's.
    We hope many other lawyers speak up and that some of them file a complaint with the Texas Bar against David Martin.



    Eileen Smith of Texas Monthly has also written about Martin, saying in her blog "In the Pink":
    Willingham’s trial lawyer David Martin is such a caricature of what people think of Texans that I was mortified watching it. Haven’t we been the posterior region of enough jokes this year, what with all the secession talk and Dancing With the Stars? And I’m not even a native Texan. So really, you guys should be extra-extra mortified.

    Right from the start of the interview, you just know it’s going to be bad. For one, Martin is wearing a cowboy hat that’s about to fall off his head. And two, the guy’s drunk as a Honduran skunk.

    Anderson Cooper: “David, you always believed that your client was guilty. Now after a half dozen experts have come forward to say there’s no way the fire was arson, you still say he was guilty. Why?”

    Martin: “Uh, Anderson, excuse my informal attire, we’ve been out checking cows… uh… tell me your question again?”

    Anderson: “About a half dozen fire experts around the country have looked at this case now, and say the evidence that was used… simply is not accurate…”

    Martin: “Ohhhh, no, that’s not what I glean from these reports here…”
    Sign the petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.

    We plan to deliver the petition at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24 at 2pm in Austin at the Texas Capitol.

    The Texas Bar website explains how to file a complaint.

    What is the grievance system?
    The grievance system is designed to protect the public from unethical lawyers licensed to practice law in Texas. Lawyers are held accountable to a set of rules, called the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers who violate those rules are prosecuted under a set of rules, called the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. Much like the criminal system, you, as the aggrieved, are not a party to the disciplinary action; you are a witness.

    To download these two sets of rules click here, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (PDF) and Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure (PDF). For instructions on how to download Adobe Acrobat, click here.

    Allegations of misconduct by an attorney are taken very seriously, and are reviewed and investigated carefully by the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel. If you believe that an attorney has violated the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, you may report this information in writing to the State Bar in the form of a grievance.

    Some examples of Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct violations
    are:

    • Conviction of a serious crime or other criminal act;
    • Engaging in fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
    • Obstructing justice;
    • Influencing improperly a government agency or official;
    • Engaging in barratry; and
    • Practicing law when the lawyer is on inactive status or has been
      suspended.

    It is important to note that malpractice and attorney misconduct are not necessarily the same. An attorney can commit legal malpractice and not be in violation of the disciplinary rules, or he ir she can be in violation of the disciplinary rules without having committed legal malpractice.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Debra Medina to Rick Perry: You are not jury and judge! Your behavior is beyond reprehensible

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina sent the Houston Chronicle an op-ed on Gov. Rick Perry's handling of the Cameron Todd Willingham execution and the investigation into whether Willingham was innocent:

    The question, Governor Perry, is NOT whether or not Cameron Todd Willingham was a "bad" man. The question sir is whether or not justice was served? Was he guilty of the crime that resulted in his execution? You are not jury and judge! You are, for the moment, our governor whose job it is to see that our laws are faithfully executed.

    Your behavior is beyond reprehensible. Your action here adds to the mounting body of evidence that you give lip service to life and have repeatedly abused your office and the public trust.



    Watch on YouTube.

    From Medina's op-ed in the Houston Chronicle:

    Now we learn that you are working overtime to suppress testimony that speaks to the accuracy of a verdict that sent a man to his death in 2004. This case is not about Cameron Todd Willingham's character, his relationship with his wife or his employment status. It is about whether or not the evidence used to convict him of arson in a fire that resulted in the death of his three children was, in fact, arson. While that evidence will not change the outcome for Mr. Willingham, it could effect evidence and testimony in future cases and could dictate that the convictions of numerous individuals currently incarcerated on similar evidence be reviewed.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    NPR on Rick Perry and Todd Willingham

    NPR had a story today on Rick Perry, Todd Willingham (Click to Listen) and Texas politics. The story includes a quote from Kay Bailey Hutchison.



    Excerpt:

    Capital punishment is sacrosanct in Texas, which executes more inmates than any other state. No serious candidate from either party runs against it.

    So it was with some delicacy that Perry's opponent for the Republican nomination for governor, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, took on the Willingham case.

    "I just think the governor made a mistake in trying to ramrod a covering up of what might be more evidence for the future," Hutchison told a Dallas-Fort Worth radio station.

    Perry's office pounced on Hutchison, knowing the popularity of capital punishment in Texas — upwards of 70 percent of the population support it.

    "If the senator is suggesting she opposes the death penalty for an individual who murdered his three daughters, then she should just say so," said the governor's spokeswoman, Allison Castle.

    However, the senator had started her statement by saying she's "a steadfast supporter of the death penalty."

    "The point that Hutchison is trying to make about Rick Perry is that he's hurt the death penalty, weakened it, by making it look to people outside Texas — and a lot of people in Texas — that he's playing fast and loose with the death penalty," said Dave McNeely, a longtime political journalist in Austin.

    Perry, who gained his seat after George W. Bush left the Texas governor's mansion for the White House in 2001, is the longest-serving governor in Texas history. He's seeking an unprecedented third term.

    Perry's new chairman of the Forensic Science Commission, John Bradley, is a hard-nosed district attorney and a conservative ally of the governor. He says he needs time to study the Willingham arson report and has not set a new date for the commission to consider it.


    Tenth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty
    October 24, 2009 at 2 PM
    Austin, Texas
    Texas State Capitol Building South Side (11th and Congress)

    Three innocent, exonerated former death row prisoners will be among the special guests at the Tenth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty October 24, 2009 at 2 PM in Austin, Texas at the Texas Capitol on the South Steps at 11th and Congress. Also attending will be the penpal of Todd Willingham, Elizabeth Gilbert, who first investigated his innocence. Plus, Todd’s last lawyer Walter Reaves. Please attend the march to support the Willingham family as they fight to prove that Todd Willingham was innocent.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Message to 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Participants from Bill Pelke, President of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing

    Congratulations to all participants in the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

    Thank you for your stand on this human rights abuse. I wish I could be there today but family circumstances prevent it. I have had the pleasure of participating in several other marches in the past.

    The Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing is represented on the march by Journey board member Shujaa Graham who is a murder victim family member and an exonerated death row inmate. Journey members Curtis McCarty, Delia Meyer Perez and other Journey members are present.

    Murder victim family members who oppose the death penalty in all circumstances lead the Journey of Hope. Death row family members, exonerated and other activists who share their stories to put a human face on the death penalty issue, join us on our speaking tours. There have been three Journey of Hope speaking tours in Texas, the leading execution state in America, and we will keep coming back until the death penalty is abolished.

    Many people who want the death penalty do so as a matter of revenge. Revenge is never, ever the answer. The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.

    Thanks again for your abolition work.

    Peace,
    Bill Pelke
    President, Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing

    Tenth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty
    October 24, 2009 at 2 PM
    Austin, Texas
    Texas State Capitol Building South Side (11th and Congress)

    Sphere: Related Content

    Panel Discussion Friday Night Before Saturday's March: What's It Like to Be Innocent on Death Row?

    This Friday, October 23, 7:00 PM
    UT campus, Texas Union building, Sinclair Suite (room 3.128)

    Speakers:

    Shujaa Graham was exonerated in 1981 from California's death row. As a prisoner at San Quentin in the 70's Shujaa was active in the Black Prison movement and in the Black Panther Party. After being framed for jailhouse murder, Shujaa was sent to death row. Since his release from prison, Shujaa has remained a committed fighter against injustice and the death penalty.

    Curtis McCarty spent 22 years in prison, 19 of those years on Oklahoma's death row, for a crime he didn't commit. He was exonerated in 2007 through the testing of DNA evidence. He has toured and spoken about his case, along with several exonerated prisoners with the Witness to Innocence Project.

    Elizabeth Gilbert is a Houston teacher and playwright, who befriended Texas death row prisoner Cameron Todd Willingham and is featured in a New Yorker article by David Grann about the case. She became convinced of his innocence and was able to push for a new arson investigation that exonerated him. However, the State failed to halt his execution in 2004. Further investigations have upheld that he was innocent.

    Panel sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and the rest of the March to Abolish the Death Penalty Coalition.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Panel Discussion Friday Night Before Saturday's March: What's It Like to Be Innocent on Death Row?

    This Friday, October 23, 7:00 PM
    UT campus, Texas Union building, Sinclair Suite (room 3.128)

    Speakers:

    Shujaa Graham was exonerated in 1981 from California's death row. As a prisoner at San Quentin in the 70's Shujaa was active in the Black Prison movement and in the Black Panther Party. After being framed for jailhouse murder, Shujaa was sent to death row. Since his release from prison, Shujaa has remained a committed fighter against injustice and the death penalty.

    Curtis McCarty spent 22 years in prison, 19 of those years on Oklahoma's death row, for a crime he didn't commit. He was exonerated in 2007 through the testing of DNA evidence. He has toured and spoken about his case, along with several exonerated prisoners with the Witness to Innocence Project.

    Elizabeth Gilbert is a Houston teacher and playwright, who befriended Texas death row prisoner Cameron Todd Willingham and is featured in a New Yorker article by David Grann about the case. She became convinced of his innocence and was able to push for a new arson investigation that exonerated him. However, the State failed to halt his execution in 2004. Further investigations have upheld that he was innocent.

    Panel sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the March to Abolish the Death Penalty Coalition.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Todd Willingham's Trial Lawyer David Martin Named "World's Worst Defense Lawyer"

    We had a good laugh reading a post called "The Worst Defense Lawyer In The World (One Hopes)" on the blog Build Your Bunker. Go read the whole post on the original site yourself for a good laugh, but here is an excerpt:

    Normally I like to unleash my bile and vitriol at the stupidities I see in today’s media and political discourse. But not today. No. Today is about the person who simply HAS to be the worst actual real defense lawyer in the world. And I wouldn’t have known a thing about him if I hadn’t stopped channel surfing because I thought I saw Randy Quaid…

    It looked like Anderson Cooper was interviewing Randy Quaid. And Randy Quaid was wearing a cowboy hat. I thought maybe it might have something to do with that bizarre hotel story in Marfa where he skipped out on his bill and got arrested. But no. This wasn’t a character actor playing up some goofy Texas stereotype. It was a real person more than living up to it. He was, specifically a defense attorney in Texas named David Martin. And, if you’ve retained his services you are in all likelihood either in prison or dead. The interview begins with him apologizing “for checking cows.” He is wearing a ten-gallon cowboy hat. It only gets worse from there.

    He was being interviewed about the innocent man executed in Texas for setting his house on fire and killing his children. It’s a story that has been in the news lately because the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has gotten involved – going so far as to stall any investigation into the possibility of Texas being the first state to openly be able to claim the murder of an innocent man – by kicking person after person off the commission created to investigate the case.

    The executed man was Cameron Todd Willingham. He was no role model. But neither are lots of people. He might not have been guilty either. His “lawyer” was David Martin. And he was not on television to defend his client – but to attack him. Relentlessly. And he declared even the possibility of his innocence to be “hogwash” and “absurd.” Absurd seems to be a big word for him – as he used it frequently as a rejoinder for everything. David Martin – worst defense lawyer in the world – is quoted in the New Yorker as saying that “98% of the time my clients are guilty as sin.” Which is all fine and good. This is America and I am a fan of freedom of speech and personal opinion. But I’m also a fan of justice. And, as expert after expert after expert have come forward and made abundantly clear – an innocent man, who tragically lost his three children in a fire, lost his freedom and his life – thanks, in part, to the WORLD’S WORST DEFENSE LAWYER and a crap sandwich of “evidence” bordering on the criminally ignorant. (For example, two details that led to Cameron Todd Willingham’s demise: he had an Iron Maiden poster in his house (he was 20 years old at the time the house burned), which the prosecution drummed up to mean that – rather than being a fan of heavy metal – he was obsessed with violence; Also, he had a tattoo of a skull on his arm. Bad taste perhaps; but not indication of mass murder

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    Audio of Former Texas Governor Mark White saying it may be time to replace the death sentence with life without parole

    From R.G. Ratcliffe's podcast Texas Politics:


    Former Gov. Mark White, who oversaw 20 executions either as state attorney general or governor, says the Todd Willingham case shows it may be time to replace the death sentence with life without parole.


    Sphere: Related Content

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Video Explaining that Rick Perry's General Counsel on Day of Todd Willingham's Investigation was Later Charged and Cleared in His Own Arson Case

    The news video below talks about Texas Governor Rick Perry's then-general counsel David Medina's role in advising Perry on the day of Todd Willingham's execution. Medina was later appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by Perry. In 2007, Medina's wife was charged with arson and Medina himself was charged with records tampering after their home burned down. The charges were later dropped against Medina's wife, Francisca, after an arson investigator hired by Medina found that arson could not have been the cause. Charges were dropped against David Medina for insufficient evidence.




    Here is how Glenn Smith at Dog Canyon explains it:

    His (Medina's) wife, Francisca, was cleared of arson charges based on an independent forensic and arson investigator’s report. The expert found the fire might have been accidental.

    Willingham was convicted and sentenced to death for a fire that killed his three children. A report from an independent forensic and arson investigator sent to Perry and Medina 88 minutes before the execution said the fire was probably accidental. Perry and Medina ignored it as irrelevant. Perry has subsequently mocked independent scientists.

    Now Perry has publicly admitted Medina’s role in the 2004 Willingham execution. There could be no greater or more tragic example of our unequal, two-tiered system of justice. I don’t know if the Medinas set the fire or not. I don’t know if Willingham was guilty, although all the independent experts say the fire wasn’t even arson, meaning no crime was committed.
    The Medina arson case shows how different an outcome can be when a defendant has the financial means to hire a good trial lawyer and a scientifically trained fire investigator. If Todd Willingham had had a good trial lawyer or had been able to hire a scientifically trained fire investigator in 1991, then charges against Willingham would also likely have been dismissed, just like they were dismissed in the case of the lawyer who on the day of Willingham's execution counselled Rick Perry not to stop the execution of Todd Willingham.

    Sign the petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.

    We plan to deliver the petition at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24 at 2pm in Austin at the Texas Capitol.

    Speakers at the march include Walter Reaves, Todd Willingham's last attorney - the one who handled his final appeals. Reaves fought through the execution to prove Willingham's innocence and is continuing to fight to exonerate his former client, in contrast to Willingham's unethical trial lawyer, David Martin, who went on national tv and revealed confidential work product from the Willingham case while arguing that Willingham was guilty.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Video New Report: Rick Perry says Todd Willingham Case Shows System Working Well

    Video below is from ABC's Channel 13 in Houston says this is huge political issue.

    Sphere: Related Content

    Media Advisory: 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Saturday Oct 24 in Austin

    Media Advisory

    Contacts: Scott Cobb, President, Texas Moratorium Network 512-552-4743 www.MarchforAbolition.org

    Laura Brady, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, (512)-638-0403 lauraebrady@hotmail.com

    EXONERATED PRISONERS AND FAMILY MEMBERS OF INNOCENTS ON TEXAS DEATH ROW


    TO LEAD 10TH ANNUAL MARCH TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY



    Saturday, October 24th 2pm: (AUSTIN) Family members of Reginald Blanton, Jeff Wood, Luis Castro Perez and Rodney Reed, Texas Death Row cases with strong innocence claims, will lead the “10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty” in Austin October 24th.

    Speakers at the annual march include Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty and Ron Keine who served more than 20 years combined on death row before being fully exonerated and released. Special guests at the march include Todd Willingham's appeals attorney, Walter Reaves and Elizabeth Gilbert, the Houston penpal who investigated his innocence and fought to exonerate him. In three independent reviews over the last five years, seven of the nation’s foremost arson experts have found that the forensic analysis that led to Todd Willingham’s conviction and execution in 2004 was completely wrong — that there was no scientific basis to find that the fire was anything more than a tragic accident. All of the non-scientific evidence against Willingham has also been discredited.

    Other speakers and confirmed attendees at the march also include Jeff Blackburn (Chief Counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas), Jeanette Popp (a mother whose daughter was murdered but who asked the DA not to seek the death penalty), Terri Been whose brother Jeff Wood is on death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone, and Anna Terrell the mother of Reginald Blanton who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Oct 27 three days after the march.

    The march starts at 2 PM on October 24 at the Texas Capitol. Supporters will gather at the Texas Capitol at the gates leading into the Capitol on the sidewalk at 11th Street, march down Congress Avenue to 6th street, then back to the South Steps of the Capitol for a rally to abolish the death penalty.

    The march and rally will include the delivery of a petition with thousands of signatures urging Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004 Texas executed an innocent man. The petition also urges Perry to suspend executions and appoint a balanced and independent commission to examine all aspects of the Texas death penalty system to determine what went wrong in the Willingham case and how to prevent the execution of innocent people. People can sign the petition at www.camerontoddwillingham.com.
    Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network said: "The last request of Todd Willingham to his parents was “please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2006 that in the modern judicial system there has not been “a single case–not one–in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.” On Saturday Oct 24 in Austin, people from across Texas will gather and shout out that Todd Willingham was innocent to show the world and Rick Perry that there are people in Texas who are convinced that Todd was innocent and that executions in Texas should be stopped before another innocent person is executed".

    Panel Discussion: Friday, October 23, the night before the march, there will be a panel discussion on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin at 7 PM with Elizabeth Gilbert (the penpal of Todd Willingham who first investigated and then advocated for his innocence), Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty, who will both speak about what it is like to be innocent and sentenced to death as they were. The panel is in the Sinclair Suite (room 3.128) of the Texas Student Union on Guadalupe Street.

    Schedule for the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, Saturday Oct 24 in Austin

    1 PM – 2 PM Members of the press are invited to attend a press availability in the Speaker's Committee Room (2.W6) inside the Capitol building. The purpose is to allow the media to ask questions and conduct interviews with the speakers listed above.

    2 PM Marchers start to gather at the Texas Capitol on the sidewalk by the South gate of the Capitol entrance on Congress Avenue at 11th Street

    2:30 or 2:45 Start to march down Congress Ave to 6th Street and back to Capitol

    3:00 or 3:15 Rally on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol with speakers mentioned above

    The annual march is organized by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations, including the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty and Kids Against the Death Penalty and sponsored by over 50 various organizations.

    Sponsors of the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty


    Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin Chapter, Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Students Against the Death Penalty, Sister Helen Prejean, Jeff Blackburn, Award-winning trial lawyer best known for overturning the wrongful convictions of 38 residents of Tulia, Texas. He currently serves as Chief Counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas and as a member of the IPOT’s Executive Committee. Organization given for identification purposes only., Community Involvement Committee, 1st Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, International Socialist Organization, Dallas Peace Center, Human Rights Coalition, College Station, Rice University chapter of Amnesty International, Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing, South Carolinians Abolishing the Death Penalty (SCADP), Reprieve, Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (Together Against the Death Penalty), France, Lee Camp (comedian/writer/activist), Jill Sobule (singer/songwriter), Abolition U.K., ALIVE-Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty-Germany, Capital of Texas Democrats For Life (CTDFL), Democrats For Life of Texas (DFLT), NOKOA – The Observer, Iranians for Peace and Justice, Texas Civil Rights Project, S.H.A.P.E. Community Center in Houston, inkblot creative (Shannon Dudley), Loving a Convict, Ray Hill’s Prison Show on Houston’s Pacifica radio station KPFT 90.1 FM, UT Prison Caucus (University of Texas at Austin), Social Justice Action Coalition (University of Texas at Austin), DP Coordination Team of Amnesty International Canada Francophone, D.R.I.V.E. Movement, Joanne Gavin, a founding member of Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Anti-Racist Action (ARA), Diana Claitor, The Texas Jail Project, Iran Human Rights, MaryEllen Kersch, Georgetown Texas, Todd Moye, Fort Worth, Sylvi, Calvet, France, Frances Morey, Austin, Judith Palfy, London, Art Browning, Cypress Texas, Mary Hunter, Chatanooga TN, Cynthia Brewer, Victoria Texas, Mimi Attleson, Albuquerque New Mexico, Emmanuelle PELOIS, Paris France, Tony and Rachael Ford, MonkeyWrench Books, Marj Loehlin, Austin TX, Bill Pelke, Alaska, Thomas Long, Greenville, NC, Tim Duda, San Antonio TX, Eric Schwing, Richmond, Allen Ansevin, Houston TX, Shelly Henderson, Los Angeles CA , Verneeda Alvarez, Baltimore, MD, Anna Shockley, Jamestown SC, -Capital-”X” aka 305375, Carmen Sert, Barcelona Spain



    For more information and the updated list of sponsors, visit www.MarchforAbolition.org

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