This piece began as another rail against Rick Perry and the sad tale of Cameron Willingham. Accused of murdering his three children in a fire, Willingham was wrongly convicted through a combination of flawed evidence, incompetent counsel, witness bias and the arguable corruption of investigators. He was subsequently sentenced to death, an innocent man thrust into a process which, contrary to public perception, favors the process of execution over the spectre of putting to death an innocent man.
Suddenly the burden of proof is on the condemned, rather than the necessity of the State to prove its case for fear of rendering the ultimate punishment against the innocent. It creates an almost insurmountable obstacle. Given the revolutionary advances in criminal forensics in the last 20 years, from DNA analysis to precise crime scene investigative techniques, failure in death penalty cases to be absolutely sure of guilt or innocence becomes tantamount to a crime.
Conclusive evidence emerged showing that the original forensic evidence was deeply flawed and, “hardly consistent with a scientific mindset and is more characteristic of mystics and psychics,” according to a Texas Forensic Science Commission investigator. The evidence was not only rebuffed by Perry, but the investigating committee was purposelly stopped in its tracks before it could hear testimony by the investigator. Right up to the day of Willingham’s execution by lethal injection, Perry refused to consider this new evidence, embarking on a campaign to discredit the commission and perpetuating falsehoods about the condemned man. Odd for a man who backs an anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution.
Perry’s hypocritical views on life issues are consistent with his anti-science views, which is why choice-individual choice- is far more consistent with the Constitution, and indeed, the Bible, than the current ideology he currently panders to. The problem is that the Evangelically-hijacked Right views the Bible as law rather than faith. The ultimate flaw in that argument is that it leaves no choice but to accept all of the Bible, mandating such extremist views that a person be stoned for eating shellfish or adultery just as they would for murder. As faith the Bible becomes a guide to higher principles, ethics and morality, while understanding that it is a historical document, not a history document. As law the Bible paints a person into indefensible corners, as it has for Perry in the Willingham case. If, indeed, the Bible is law, it all must be followed. There is no room for disagreement. As faith it becomes a guide with flexibility enough for mercy and forgiveness.
It is an absolute hypocrisy to act as a self-appointed advocate for the unborn and not advocate fully to protect any possibility of innocence for the condemned. Not only is it a hypocrisy, but it becomes a complete abrogation of their assumed responsibility by those who view the Bible as law. That assumption comes with an implicit power over life and death, which, by any moral standard, Perry abused fully in the Willingham case. In the view of the Bible-as law- what does that say for Perry, and for those who believe as strident and uncompromising as he?
The death penalty is arguable. What is not is the calculated abandonment of an innocent man on death row. Perry not only abandoned this man to unjust death for a crime that legitimate and legally sanctioned investigators proved he did not commit, but he deliberately interfered with a commission’s report that would have proved Willingham’s innocence.
That begs the question for men like Perry, as to whether or not they truly believe in the Right to Life, or if it isn’t a political tactic. If he is true to his faith, has Perry ever once paused to consider his crime and ask forgiveness for the death of this young man? The problem with hypocrites who hide behind religion is that they tend to ask forgiveness in order to keep perpetrating the same sins, instead of seeking true forgiveness and finding greater wisdom from the inherent human weaknesses that we all suffer. Doubtful whether Perry is interested in either, and is more interested in the power and wealth that comes along with wrapping himself in the Bible in order to appear faithful.