Texas Gov. Rick Perry, seeking to defuse an election-season controversy over the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, described Willingham as a “monster” and “bad man” whose conviction in the deaths of his three daughters was sustained “every step of the way” by the courts, reports the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. Perry has drawn national media scrutiny after dismissing three members of the state Forensic Science Commission two days before the panel was to review an expert report challenging the arson investigation that led to Willingham's execution. A fourth member was dismissed later.
Yesterday, Craig Beyler, the Baltimore fire expert who wrote the report, called for the reinstatement of the ousted members and the resignations of Perry's replacements. “Sadly, the political influence which has been exercised with respect to the commission has compromised the integrity of the enterprise,” Beyler said. He said Perry should have recused himself from making the commission appointments, contending that the governor has a “conflict of interest” because he allowed the execution to be carried out after rejecting a last-minute postponement bid from Willingham's attorney.