Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?

If you read this article it’s very hard not to conclude that Texas executed an innocent man when it put Cameron Todd Willingham to death for the arson deaths of his children.

This is a horrible story on several levels. The basic event of a housefire with fatalities is awful. The agony of the parents who have lost their children in this way is terrible to consider. Finally, there is the awful matter that the father never should have stood trial in the matter and certainly should not have been put to death.

At this late date I even feel bad for the fire investigators, whose work was describes as more mystic work than science. There’s a good chance that in this case, as in so many where it becomes apparent that the justice system has failed, the prosecutors and experts who pushed prosecution and guilt may deny the facts for the rest of their lives. Who can blame them. Consider their alternative – they could review the facts and say, I made a mistake and I feel terrible about it.

Well, read it if you can stand it. And think about how important it is to have good forensic evidence before we jail and/or execute somebody. Jail house snitches are not to be relied on. Their information is about as reliable as Chalabi’s intelligence on Iraq, and it’s poor evidence for the same reason. The system allows, encourages, rewards folks who will swear to what people in power want to hear.

On a personal note, I got rousted by Texas Public Safety outside Corsicana a few decades  ago.  I had on a pony tail, a cowboy hat, and cutoff jeans and I was cruising though in my TR3 with the top down and I think I must have looked too much like the Austin hippie I was.  Scary hour before the skunks decided not to throw me through a nearby barb wire fence and let me go.  Corsicana is famous for its fruitcakes.  You can look it up.

clipped from www.newyorker.com

Cameron Todd Willingham in his cell on death row, in 1994. He insisted upon his innocence in the deaths of his children and refused an offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence. Photograph by Ken Light.

Trial by Fire

The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.

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Justice Comes Knocking

The rule of law is not going to be kind to the Bush administration, nor is the historical review. As various cases appear in courts, judges are going to find over and over again that the Bush administration violated constitutional protections over and over again. The US was a rogue nation under Bush-Cheney. We wait to see if Obama will pull the country back. So far, the indications are that the dictatorial powers seized by Bush-Cheney are proving too tempting to the successors.

If and when these cases find their way to the Supreme Court, we can easily predict a 5-4 decision to throw away our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Justice Anthony Kennedy gets to make that decision all by himself. The other eight votes are already counted. Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas need to be voted down in important cases for the next few decades. Will it happen? Time will tell. For now, Justice Anthony Kennedy calls the shots.

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Panel Rules Against Ashcroft in Detention Case
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft may face personal liability for the decisions that led to the detention of an American citizen as a material witness after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday.
In the decision, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, was sharply critical of the Bush administration’s practice of holding people it suspected of terrorism without charges, as material witnesses.

“We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history,” said the opinion, written by Judge Milan D. Smith Jr.
Unless Mr. Ashcroft appeals the decision, the case will go back to federal district court for further hearings, which could involve extensive investigation of the former administration’s antiterrorism policies.

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WHAM – winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan

It works the same in Afghanistan as it did in Vietnam. Deploying thousands and thousands of trigger-pullers in a foreign country will always have the same impact on hearts and minds.

What a disaster that Obama is making Afghanistan his own Vietnam. There is always the choice of declaring victory and withdrawing the troops.

Will the US be attacked if we fail to chase terrorists to the ends of the world? Yes, it will.

Guess what? The US will also be attacked if we chase terrorists to the ends of the world.

It might be smart to pick our battles. The attack on September 11th warranted a response, but it was not like Pearl Harbor or the German invasion of Poland in WWII. There was no country or military army behind the attacks and our response should have been directed to finding and prosecuting perpetrators, the invasion of two or three countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks on the US was idiocy.

Look at the pictures of the villagers below who are burying their family members and neighbors. The US has no friends in this crowd now.

clipped from www.nytimes.com

NATO Strike Magnifies Divide on Afghan War

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike on Friday exploded two fuel tankers that had been hijacked by the Taliban, setting off competing claims about how many among the scores of dead were civilians and raising questions about whether the strike violated tightened rules on the use of aerial bombardment.
Afghan officials said that up to 90 people were killed by the strike near Kunduz, a northern city where the trucks got stuck after militants tried to drive them across a river late Thursday night.
The public health officer for Kunduz Province, Dr. Azizullah Safar, said a medical team sent to the village reported that 80 people had been killed, and he said that “most of them were civilians and villagers.”
But he said it was also clear that some of the dead were militants, noting that the site was scattered with remnants of ammunition vests and other gear carried by insurgents.

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