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LAS COLINAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ―
The state of Texas faces an embarrassing predicament. A report criticizing the evidence that led to the execution of a Corsicana man was supposed to be presented today in front of a state panel in Las Colinas. But last minute changes by the governor cancelled the hearing.
The report could ultimately force Texas to be the first state in the nation to admit it executed an innocent man.
Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death for setting fire to his Corsicana home in 1991. The fire killed his three little girls.
Five years after he died from lethal injection, Willingham’s execution is receiving national attention. At the KRLD studios in Dallas former death row inmate Kerry Cook took to the airwaves Friday, demanding that the state fess up.
“I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s going to backfire. I believe the state of Texas and its people do care about the execution of an innocent person. I’m glad to see this controversy.”
Cook was released from death row in 1997 after the evidence that convicted him of rape and murder was discredited. He’s now part of a growing movement that believes Texas must right a terrible wrong.
“We should be able to have the same logic and reasoning and courage and integrity to acknowledge that we made a mistake.”
The controversy elevated this week after Governor Rick Perry abruptly removed three members from the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
The commission was supposed to discuss the findings of a report by Dr. Craig Beyler; one of the nation’s top arson experts. Dr. Beyler was hired by the commission and was scheduled to appear Friday before the panel in Las Colinas.
The report is highly critical of the arson investigation in the Willingham case. It concluded that the evidence lacked scientific backing. Dr. Beyler’s report could be quite damning to Governor Perry since he was in office in 2004 when Willingham was put to death.
Aliece watts is a forensic scientist from burleson and was one of the three people removed from the commission.
“I’m very frustrated and upset as well… I believe this was political. I think it was a tactic by the governor to delay the release of this report and to delay this investigation.”
Governor Perry says replacing the board members is standard practice when their terms are nearly up. His new choice to head the commission is Williamson County DA John Bradley, who has promised to “Let the facts lead us to wherever they do.”
Friday’s cancelled meeting has yet to be rescheduled.