[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Sep 10 13:08:43 CDT 2011
Behind the Death Penalty Cheers
One of the oddest moments of the GOP presidential primary debate Wednesday
night in California occurred when the audience burst into applause in response
to moderator Brian Williams’ recap of Gov. Rick Perry’s record of presiding
over 234 executions.
Williams had not yet even finished asking his question when the crowd erupted
with clapping and even whistles. The effusive audience applause in response to
both Williams’ mention of Perry’s record and the governor’s full-throated,
guilt-free answer seems to reflect a Republican primary audience that, like the
governor, is untroubled by the death penalty, either in principle or in
Results from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll and national polling
confirm that one shouldn’t be surprised by the borderline atavistic response
from an audience of Republican primary voters. It’s not news or even mildly
shocking, of course, that Texas voters support the death penalty in substantial
numbers, even in the face of doubts about the fairness of the process. Our
polling regularly shows over 75 percent of self-reported registered voters
support the death penalty either strongly or somewhat for those convicted of
violent crimes. And there isn’t much ambivalence lurking in the distinction in
support — the strong support is routinely over 50 %. The overall levels of
support in Texas are 10 to 15 percentage points higher than support for similar
items in national polls (for example, see the Gallup trend here).
In fact, Democratic identifiers in Texas also support the death penalty, or are
ambivalent, in substantial numbers. In the same February 2010 survey, over 60 %
of self-identified Democrats expressed some support for the death penalty —
again, a fairly common pattern in Texas, though about half of this support
comes from the less enthusiastic “somewhat support” responses. Only 16 % said
they were “strongly opposed” to the death penalty. Compared to national
surveys, the Texas numbers for Democratic support are again in the neighborhood
of 10 or more points higher than national Democratic approval.
The figures are taken from the February 2010 UT/Texas Tribune survey instead of
more recent surveys for reasons I’ll explain shortly. More recent results from
February 2011, the last time we asked a death penalty question in our Texas
survey, were almost identical.
The numbers in Texas testify to the existence of a Republican voter base
seemingly not phased by questions about the integrity of the process in Texas,
let alone the application of capital punishment by a government about which
they seem highly skeptical and suspicious in many other contexts.
We conducted a statewide survey in February 2010, at the height of both the
Republican gubernatorial primary contest (if you want to call it that) between
Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. There was also substantial media
coverage of the administration of the death penalty in Texas at that time,
largely focused on the Cameron Todd Willingham case. We wondered if the case
was making an impression on public opinion about the death penalty, so we
included a survey item that asked, “Generally speaking, do you believe the
death penalty is applied fairly or unfairly in Texas today?” 59 % judged it
fair, 27 % unfair, and 14 % said they didn’t know. (This was the only survey in
which we asked this question, which is why I focus on the February 2010 results
“Death penalty applied fairly or unfairly in Texas today?”
Support for death penalty Fairly (n=300) Unfairly (n=23) Don’t know (n=38)
Strongly support 76% 39% 45% 70%
Somewhat support 19% 13% 26% 19%
Somewhat oppose 4% 13% 11% 6%
Strongly oppose 0.30% 22% 8% 3%
Don’t know 0.30% 13% 11% 2%
[Source: February 2010 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll; N=800. MOE =
+/- 3.46 percentage points. Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding.]
If you cross-tabulate views on the fairness of the death penalty with results
from the item gauging support for it, you get a rough idea of the extent to
which doubts about fairness color support for the death penalty. Of those who
think the death penalty is applied fairly, the vast majority support it (96 %),
and a big majority of those support it strongly. The belief that the process is
unfair coexists with lower levels of support, but perhaps not as low as one
might expect. Almost 1/2 of those who find the death penalty unfairly applied
still support it at least somewhat. Of those who don’t know if it’s fair, 60 %
If judgments about fairness seem to have only a diffuse impact on support for
the death penalty in the overall survey sample, it is even more diffuse if we
look only at Republican responses in order to get at the dynamics of the
predominantly Republican audience moved to applaud Perry’s record-setting
number of executions.
This exercise is limited by the overwhelming support for the death penalty
among Republicans in Texas — 89 % support it, 76 % strongly — and relatively
few Republicans who either think the death penalty is applied unfairly (only 7
%) or don’t know (11 %). But we still get an overall sense of the intense
support for the death penalty among Republicans, even among the very few
Republicans who possess any doubts about the process. Of the small number of
Republican respondents who judge the death penalty unfairly applied, a
plurality still strongly support it, and more support it than don’t. Among the
larger number of Republicans who say they don’t know if the death penalty is
fair, 60 % still support it.
So even if the Republicans in the California audience at Wednesday night’s
debate, like those nationally, were somewhat less intense in their support of
the death penalty compared to Texans, survey results give us some insight into
the enthusiasm with which the audience greeted Perry on the death penalty. He
received two bursts of applause. One was for the recap of his record of
presiding over a record number of executions, and the other was for expressing
surety when invited to express doubts about the process. The governor is not
losing sleep in the face of criticism of the process in Texas, and apparently
neither is the Republican primary audience. Yet again, it seems like Perry and
the Republican Party of 2012 are a match made in heaven. Cue the applause.
(source: Guest Column; James Henson directs the Texas Politics Project in the
Department of Government at the University of Texas. He also is co-director of
the UT/Texas Tribune poll with Daron Shaw----Texas Tribune)
Perry Executed 9/11 Hate Crimes Murderer Despite Victim's Pleas
At Wednesday night's Republican debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry said (when
talking about mandatory vaccines for girls and women) "I will always err on the
side of saving lives." Later in the evening, he drew cheers for his record
number of 234 executions, saying "Americans understand justice." Video of death
penalty exchange below.
Rais Bhuiyan was shot in the face at close range after 9/11 by Mark Stroman, an
Aryan Brotherhood member, partially blinding him in his right eye. Stroman also
killed Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a
Muslim born in Pakistan.
Bhuiyan sued Governor Rick Perry in order to stop the execution of Stroman,
saying: "I strongly believe what Mark Stroman did was a hate crime because of
his ignorance, and he was not capable of distinguishing between right and
wrong. Otherwise, he would not have done what he did. ... The way my parents
raised me, and my Islamic faith teaches me, that he is the best who can forgive
easily. And my faith teaches that no one has a right to take another human
life. Islam doesn’t allow for hate and killing.”
In a statement written in prison, Stroman says, “Not only do I have all my
friends and supporters trying to save my life, but now I have the Islamic
community joining in ... spearheaded by one very remarkable man named Rais
Bhuiyan, who is a survivor of my hate. His deep Islamic beliefs ... gave him
the strength to forgive the unforgiveable ... that is truly Inspiring to me,
and should be an example for us all. The hate has to stop, we are all in this
world together." Despite Bhuiyan's efforts, Stroman was executed on July 20.
See interview on
Kate Lowenstein is program director for Murder Victims’ Families for Human
Rights. She said today: "Rick Perry has it precisely wrong when he says he got
applause for carrying out 234 executions because 'Americans understand
justice.' The fact is that the more Americans understand about the reality of
the death penalty -- that it costs millions, squanders valuable resources that
could be spent on fighting crime that are instead put toward seeking revenge --
the less they support the death penalty.
"Governor Perry should be asked why he, who proclaims himself an advocate for
victims, just a few months ago proclaimed victims' rights 'largely symbolic'
when the victim disagreed with him on the death penalty. So whose rights does
he stand for? Not the wrongfully convicted, not the victims who don't agree
with him." www.murdervictimsfamilies.org link
They Messed With Texas
A funny thing happened at the Republican debate at the Reagan Library in
California on Wednesday night, when the evening’s co-moderator Brian Williams
asked a question of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. (Not funny ha-ha, funny
peculiar.) Let’s go right to the video.
For the text oriented among us, here’s what transpired.
WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234
death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you…
Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might
have been innocent?
PERRY: No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a
very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits
the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they
go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United
States, if that’s required.
But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our
children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you
kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of
Texas, and that is, you will be executed.
WILLIAMS: What do you make of…
What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the
execution of 234 people drew applause?
PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in
the vast majority of — of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you
have committed heinous crimes against our citizens — and it’s a state-by-state
issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and
they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our
citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.
For some — in this case, opponents of the death penalty — this was sort of a
double whiplash moment, a gasp within a gasp that may have been more confusing
than mobilizing. Because which was more disturbing (or heartening, depending on
your political view)? Perry’s unbowed defense of the “thoughtful” trial process
in Texas and the clear expression of his untroubled mind in the face of
possible moral doubt and complexity (i.e., Have I facilitated the death of an
innocent human?)? Or the audience applause that bracketed the exchange, the
rousing audience cheers for an aggressively applied death penalty? In
California, mind you, not Texas.
Let’s look at the applause, the “execution cheer,” if you will. Because any
number of analysts might have expected Perry to say what he said, but the cheer
was a surprise — a welcome sort for some, but unwelcome for others.
This is the digital age, so let’s begin with an immediate outburst from Andrew
Sullivan, who during his live blogging of the debate, wrote:
9.48 pm. A spontaneous round of applause for executing people! And Perry shows
no remorse, not even a tiny smidgen of reflection, especially when we know for
certain that he signed the death warrant for an innocent man. Here’s why I find
it impossible to be a Republican: any crowd that instantly cheers the execution
of 234 individuals is a crowd I want to flee, not join. This is the crowd that
believes in torture and executions. Can you imagine the torture that Perry
would authorize? Thank God he’s doing so poorly tonight.
The next morning, Sullivan’s former colleague, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates,
seemed somewhat less rattled, though hardly cheerier. “Apparently people were
shocked by the applause here,” he wrote. “The only thing that shocked me was
that they didn’t form a rumba line. It’s a Republican debate. And it’s
America.” He continued:
Perry’s right — most people support the death penalty. It’s the job of those of
us who oppose the death penalty to change that.
It’s worth remembering that no Democratic nominee for the presidency in some 20
years, has been against the death penalty. This is still the country where we
took kids to see men lynched, and then posed for photos.
We are a lot of things. This is one of them.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon found it unwelcome, too. Actually he found it “creepy
and disgusting.” (Greenwald, like Perry, is direct.). In a link-laden
broadside, he wrote:
[I]t’s hardly surprising for a country which long considered public hangings a
form of entertainment and in which support for the death penalty is mandated
orthodoxy for national politicians in both parties. Still, even for those who
believe in the death penalty, it should be a very somber and sober affair for
the state, with regimented premeditation, to end the life of a human being no
matter the crimes committed. Wildly cheering the execution of human beings as
though one’s favorite football team just scored a touchdown is primitive,
twisted and base.
All of that would be true even if the death penalty were perfectly applied and
only clearly guilty people were killed. But in the U.S., the exact opposite is
true; see here to read about (and act to stop) a horrific though typical
example of a very likely innocent person about to be executed by the State of
Georgia. That Perry in particular likely enabled the execution of an innocent
man — as well as numerous other highly disturbing killings, of the young and
mentally infirm — makes the cheering all the more repellent. That the death
penalty in America has long been plagued by a serious racial bias makes it
worse still. That this death-cheering comes from a party that relentlessly
touts itself as ”pro-life” and derides the other as The Party of Death — and
loves to condemn Islam (in contrast to its war-loving self) as a
death-glorifying cult — only adds a layer of dark irony.
That whole “perfectly applied” thing — the goal of which requires the person
being put to death to actually be guilty — also troubled others. Marie Diamond
at Think Progress Justice undertakes a thorough debunking of the idea that
everyone executed in Texas in the past decade or so was guilty:
[D]uring Perry’s tenure as governor, DNA evidence has exonerated at least 41
people convicted in Texas, Scott Horton writes in Harper’s. According to the
Innocence Project, “more people have been freed through DNA testing in Texas
than in any other state in the country, and these exonerations have revealed
deep flaws in the state’s criminal justice system.” Some 85 percent of wrongful
convictions in Texas, or 35 of the 41 cases, are due to mistaken eyewitness
Those exonerations include Cornelius Dupree, who had already spent 30 years in
prison for rape, robbery, and abduction when DNA evidence proved unequivocally
that he was not the man who had committed those crime. Tim Cole, the brother of
Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis (D), was posthumously pardoned a decade after he died
in prison when DNA evidence proved his innocence. The total failure of the
Texas courts to protect these innocent individuals reveal a system plagued by
racial injustices, procedural flaws, and a clemency review process that’s
nothing but a rubber stamp on executions.
Leading the country in wrongful convictions probably should give Perry a
moment’s pause about the reliability of a criminal justice process he described
last night as “thoughtful.” …
And he may well have already executed an innocent man. The case of Cameron Todd
Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his 3 daughters
and maintained his innocence until his dying day, will likely continue to haunt
Perry throughout the campaign. Several scientists and forensics experts have
questioned the evidence that led to Willingham’s conviction, but Perry
“squashed” an official probe into his execution.
Taking another tack, political animal Steve Benen at Washington Monthly notes
the apparent inconsistency in Perry’s much-discussed attitude towards science:
[W]e’re learning quite a bit about how Rick Perry thinks. Scientists tell him,
after rigorous, peer-reviewed, international research that global warming is
real, and Perry responds, “I don’t care.” A deeply flawed judicial process puts
potentially-innocent Americans on death row, and Perry responds, “Let’s get the
The governor balks when presented with evidence on evolution, abstinence
education, and climate change, but embraces without question the notion that
everyone he’s killed in Texas was 100 % guilty. The scientific process, he
apparently believes, is unreliable, while the state criminal justice system is
Intellectually, morally, and politically, this isn’t just wrong; it’s scary.
The fact that Republicans in the audience found this worthy of hearty applause
points to a party that’s bankrupt in more ways than one.
Of course, as Coates pointed out, this is America, and thus Perry’s stance was
praised by some as proof (not scientific) that the governor was truly sympatico
with the average American death penalty supporter.
An interesting opinion of this sort was aired by James Taranto at The Wall
Street Journal. Taranto reaches way back to the year 2000 to a New Republic
piece by Josh Marshall, which explained every other civilized country’s ban on
the death penalty as political “elitism” — the populace in most countries
support the death penalty, but their politicians forbid it. In other words, the
political systems in these other countries are “morally superior” but “less
democratic,” Marshall wrote. “[I]n Europe and Canada elites have exercised a
kind of noblesse oblige. They’ve chosen a more civilized and humane political
order over a fully popular and participatory one. It’s a perfectly defensible
position — but it might not go over that well on ‘Crossfire.’”
(“Crossfire” was cancelled in 2005, but you get the picture, right?)
11 years on, Taranto elaborates, explaining the audience applause as rooted in
a sort of patriotism:
It seems to us that the crowd’s enthusiasm last night was less sanguinary than
defiant. The applause and the responses to it reflect a generations-old mutual
contempt between the liberal elite and the large majority of the population,
which supports the death penalty.
There are, of course, reasonable arguments against the death penalty. But
opponents are too resentful at their inability to steamroll over public opinion
as if this were Europe or Canada to argue their case effectively. One of their
most ludicrous tropes is to liken the U.S. to authoritarian regimes that also
practice capital punishment. In reality, as Marshall showed, America still has
the death penalty because it is less authoritarian than Europe. Thus whenever
someone makes that argument, we feel a tinge of patriotic pride. We believe a
similar sentiment lay behind last night’s applause.
Another oddity of this dust-up was the digital shrapnel that hit Brian Williams
for asking the obvious question. Matthew Sheffield at Newsbusters.org (devoted,
in the site’s own words, to “exposure of liberal media bias, insightful
analysis, constructive criticism and timely corrections to news media
reporting.”) argued that Williams showed a lot of liberal elitist gall for even
As someone who makes his living by trying to appeal, at least in some fashion,
to the emotions of crowds, Williams’s inability to understand the audience’s
spontaneous outbreak of applause response to his declaration that Texas “has
executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times”
is a classic case of a liberal elitist being unable to compute that his smugly
held opinions are not shared by others. It was the media analog of 1988
Democratic presidential nominee’s Michael Dukakis’s anodyne response when asked
in a debate about whether he would want a hypothetical murderer of his wife
But perhaps I’m selling Williams’s perspicacity short. One suspects he would
likely have understood a similar audience reaction were it to applaud
enthusiastically a Democratic candidate’s firm support for abortion
legalization. Such a response could equally be perceived as grisly but it seems
unlikely that Williams would entertain such a thought.
Ann Althouse also accused Williams of baiting, not unlike a certain CNN anchor
at a 1988 Democratic presidential debate:
Williams —skillfully — lures Perry into the realm of emotion. Perhaps he’s
looking for a big moment, perhaps something like what happened to Michael
Dukakis in the second presidential debate in 1988. Dukakis was against the
death penalty, and the question asked by Bernard Shaw invited him to show some
passion and fire about crime — what if your wife were raped and murdered? — and
Dukakis stayed doggedly on his track, expressing coolly rational rejection of
the death penalty.
In last night’s debate, Perry declined the invitation to show passion about
death — the death of the convicted murderer — and, like Dukakis, he stayed
coolly rational. In Sullivan’s words, he “shows no remorse” or “reflection” —
but he did show reflection, reflection about the soundness of the system of
justice. He didn’t show remorse. Remorse is what you ask a criminal to show. It
was fine for Perry not to be lured into displaying angst over executions. But
then I thought it was fine for Dukakis to keep from getting sidetracked by
Shaw’s melodramatic hypothetical. All we’re talking about is the public’s
response to the candidate and the journalist’s effort to create excitement. The
difference is, most Americans support the death penalty, and they don’t need
elaborate expressions about the deep significance of death when it’s the death
of a convicted murderer.
Certainly, as Sept. 11 approaches, the idea of revenge is in the air, as are
questions about it. Is vengeance the way of nations? Was it worth it? What is
the difference between revenge and justice? Does violence merely beget
violence? Greenwald, in the same post cited above makes the connection to the
American cheering that followed the killing of Osama bin Laden. (“In all cases,
performing giddy dances over state-produced corpses is odious and wrong.”)
Greenwald also cites Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News, who believes he
saw the national sentiment that Perry tapped into. Bunch calls the death
penalty cheer “a shocking new low” in American politics. On Thursday he wrote:
“[W]ith the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just four days away, everyone’s been
looking for a window into America’s post-attack psyche. I think that, sadly,
that window just opened wide in Simi Valley last night. I’ve never forgiven my
own newspaper, the Daily News, for leading the Sept. 12, 2001, paper with an
editorial headlined ‘Blood for blood’ that started out: ‘Revenge. Hold that
thought.’ Obviously, we have — for coming up on a decade. The cheering of
executions is the hallmark of a sick society one that’s incapable of tackling
its real demons and looking for vengeance on whomever happens to be available.”
Given the tension in the air, and the 2012 election hovering, it’s not likely
that the warring parties will come together on this or any other issue. But who
knows? Maybe we’ll all wake up one morning and see the world differently. It’s
(source: Peter Catapano, NY Times blog)
Man on death row for Corpus Christi murder not ready to die----John Henry
Ramirez changes mind to end his legal fight, appeal will continue
John Henry Ramirez isn’t ready to die after all.
The Texas death row inmate was convicted of capital murder in 2008 for the July
19, 2004, stabbing of convenience store clerk Pablo Castro.
Castro was stabbed 29 times and robbed of $1.25 as he was taking out trash at a
convenience store on Baldwin Boulevard.
Ramirez, now 27, had decided months ago that he wanted to expedite his
execution by ending his legal fight to appeal his conviction.
He was brought to 94th District Judge Bobby Galvan’s court on Friday for a
hearing on the issue.
But the hearing was canceled because Ramirez changed his mind.
Ramirez told a psychologist last month he had started having second thoughts
about giving up the legal fight because he found out he has a paternal
The teenage sister and her mother wrote to him and urged him to stay alive
after media coverage about his wish to waive appeals.
Ramirez told the psychologist that he wants to get to know his newly discovered
“Now I got a little hope — a lifeline to hold on to. (I’d like to) give her a
chance, see where it goes,” Ramirez said.
A new hearing, which will focus on the merits of his latest appeal, will be at
9 a.m. Wednesday in Galvan’s court.
The judge will make his recommendations to the Court of Criminal Appeals in
Austin. That court would then make a ruling on the appeal.
Before changing his mind, Ramirez wrote a letter in June to Galvan explaining
why he wanted to waive his appeals including that he didn’t want to continue to
waste taxpayer money.
“I hope justice will be served for the family and friends of Pablo Castro in a
speedy fashion,” he wrote. “They’ve waited long enough!”
He also asked the judge to allow him to address his family, Castro’s family and
the media when he receives his execution date.
Ramirez gave additional reasons to the psychologist for wanting to speed up the
process. The psychologist’s report says he described being on death row as
“boring, tedious, tiring ... just a trash life.” He said he was bitter,
frustrated and depressed, according to the psychologist’s report.
Ramirez acknowledged during the psychologist’s evaluation that he would feel
differently about his appeals if he wasn’t depressed.
“But why stall the inevitable? It’s on their terms,” he told the psychologist.
“I’d understand if I had support, (someone to) just show me you care ... I
prefer to go on my own terms. It’s a personal choice, not like I’m being forced
to the decision.”
Ramirez also said during the evaluation he wasn’t afraid to die and spoke about
“I found God a long time ago but I’m not gonna turn holy roller since I ruined
my life. God ain’t going save me,” Ramirez told the doctor.
Now that Ramirez has decided to continue to fight his conviction the appeals
process could stave off execution for years.
On average, Texas death row inmates spend about a decade on death row before
they are executed, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Castro’s killing was one of three robberies Ramirez, Angela Rodriguez and
Christina Chavez were accused of committing together in the same night. The 2
women were caught that night and are serving prison time. Ramirez eluded
authorities until his 2008 capture near Brownsville.
(source: Corpus Christi Caller Times)
Texas commission signals halt to investigation of 2004 execution
An attorney general's opinion effectively halts a Texas state commission's
investigation into allegations that flawed science led to a man's 2004
execution, according to a draft report released Friday.
The opinion prevents the Texas Forensic Science Commission "from proceeding
with further investigation" into the case of Cameron Todd Willingham or issuing
any conclusions about the conduct of arson investigators in the case, the draft
states. But members put off final adoption of the report until October to
review recommendations for state officials in future cases, and Willingham's
advocates say they still hope to persuade the commission to move ahead.
"I look forward to directing the commission to information that demonstrates
that they do indeed have jurisdiction," said Stephen Saloom of the Innocence
Project, which brought Willingham's case before the commission.
But July's opinion by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott states that the
commission can investigate only cases that involve evidence tested in
state-accredited crime labs since September 2005, when it was created. Nizam
Peerwani, the Fort Worth medical examiner who is the commission's chairman,
says that makes it impossible to proceed.
"This commission is not going to work against the attorney general's office,"
Peerwani told CNN.
Willingham was put to death for setting a fire that killed his three young
daughters in 1991. But the case drew national attention in 2009, when a
fire-science expert hired by the Forensic Science Commission challenged the
finding of arson at the heart of Willingham's conviction.
A subsequent shakeup of the commission by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now a
Republican presidential candidate, led to accusations that the governor was
trying to derail the investigation. Perry allowed Willingham's execution to go
forward, and he has called Willingham a "monster" whose conviction withstood
The Innocence Project has argued for a finding of negligence against state fire
marshals, arguing that they had a duty to warn the courts that advances in the
science of arson investigation had rendered obsolete much of the evidence
presented at Willingham's trial. The draft report states that the attorney
general's opinion leaves the commission unable to issue such a finding.
"We're not saying there were no problems in this case," Peerwani said. But he
said the commission is "very pleased" that the state fire marshal's office has
expressed a willingness to review its standards as a result of the
"We think this is a very significant advance," he said.
Willingham's cousin, Patricia Cox, said she remains optimistic that the
commission will revisit its findings before a final report is approved. Cox
told the commission Thursday that it "can't uninvestigate a case they've
"Certainly, I think Todd's case deserves some special consideration," Cox said.
"I think they would be remiss if they brought it to this point and talked about
future cases and the improvement of arson investigation, and yet failed to
address the past cases."
"I was encouraged by the recommendations that they think seem to be going forth
about the improvements in arson investigation. If nothing else, we are
gratified that we had a part in changing the arson investigation standards in
the state of Texas."
But Willingham's stepmother, Eugenia Willingham, said she was less hopeful.
"I think that's regrettable after all this time, and I hope I'm wrong," she
More information about the DeathPenalty