New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - August 11, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
11/ 201I I HERALD-ZEITUNG COM
This editorial was published in the Aug 4 Corpus Christi CallerTimesNew limit on fbrensiG panel a justice setback
New iimit on state forensics panel is a justice setback Even the most ardent supporters of the death penalty want to be sure that the condemned deserve their sentence.
If a conviction can be proved wrongful, it should be — not just to prevent a pending execution, but to clear the names of the mistakenly executed and to learn how not to repeat such grievous errors How far such efforts should go is a matter of contin-umg debate But they should go farther than the hmit placed on them by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The attorney general decided that the Texas Forensic Science Commission _ can t examine forensic testing that predates the commission s 2005 inception That includes two arson investigations that helped send Cameron Todd Willingham to his execution for the 1991 house fire that killed his three children Ihe Willingham case was first Three professional reviews of the arson investigations found fault with them — which doesn t prove Willingham innocent as he proclaimed he was, to his death in 2004 But the reviews discredited the lexas Fire Marshal s investigative procedures and prompted the commission to issue lecornmendations m April for improved fire investigation training ihe state fire marshal persists in standing by the Willingham investigations and its methods
Abbott s opinion doesn t prevent the commission from looking into professional negligence or misconduct that occurred before the commission's inception It just can t review evidence tfiat was tested or introduced into evidence before then So. assuming — as we do -- that forensic science has progressed, Abbott's decision prevents the application of today's knowledge to correct mistakes by investigators who acied competently and m good faith but were limited by the technology of the day We II go out on a limb and suspect tliat iexas imprisoned people wrongly convicted before 2005, including some on Death Row Forgoing tfie potential to coirect those mistakes because the commission didn t exist yet isn't justice
The jury is out on whether it's politics, but there's a whiff of that in the Willingham case Two years ago, then not yet unofficial presidential candidate Gov Rick Perry removed the commission’s fust cfiairman and two other members two days before they were to fiear a report about senous problems with the Willingfiam investigation Perry chose a prosecutor. Williamson County District Attorney Jotin Bradley, to replace the ousted chairman. Sam Bassett, a defense lawyer.
The commission continued its investigation over Bradley s objections and rejected his attempt to approve a final report tfiat stopped short of linding the arson investigations negligent He also referred to Willingham as a guilty monster'
Bassett said it was interesting " that Abbott's opinion came out as tfie commission was completing its investigation His choice of the woid ‘rnteresting' is interesting in that it s a way of saying "suspicious” without using tfie word "suspicious '
How tfie Willingham case might play on a national stage during a Perry presidential campaign has been cause for much interesting speculation. Death penalty advocacy plus cowboy boots plus a potentially wrongful execution could equal trouble for Periy If an unfavorable finding in the Willingham case would have been damaging, tfie Abbott ruling lias compounded it by adding fuel lor speculation Bottom line: Looking into tfie Willingham case and others tliat predate tfie commission's existence seems a prudent use of its time.
If abuse of the appeals process by defense lawyers was tfie concern, tfie commission wasn't part of the problem It's an instrument of justice, now weakened by Abbott s ruling
u s PRESIDENT Barack Obama
tfc(X) PtìndsyWdiiia Avti, I'JW W.ishiiiqKiii, [) C i'(JOOf)
U S SENATE Kay Bailey Hutchison
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Washinqtod, DC 20‘)10 pep lelephone (?0?) 224 hV?
’ lax (202)224 07/6 Web htt() //hutchisod senate gov (Send e fniiils through Web site I San Antonio office 145 Duncan Drive, Suite 120 San Antoiuo 78226 ielepftont! (210)340 2885 Fax (2101 ;i49 675,3 John Cornyn
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MFRAI n-7FmiNfi FDITORIAL BOARD
Publisher and Editor Doug Toney
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A»!rt Miinsotoj Shwm I»«*'« thorn« •;LETTERS I>OUCY
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And you think we have problems...
LONDON — The chancellor of the excfiequer has a dry. sly sense of humor. George Osborne. 40 says Britain escaped tfie sort of housing bubble and crash that staggered America because, whereas America recklessly expanded its housing stock, "We were saved by the fact that you can't build anythmg in this country "He exaggerates, somewhat Bntain s regulatory impediments to dynamism, just as he exaggerated, some what, his prediction, when he became chancellor 15 months ago that in six months he would be Britain's most uii[)opular man His and Prime Minister David Cameron s wager is one that should interest Americans tlie tiet that Britain can simultaneously shrink the state and stimulate the economy Since growth resumed here in 2010. It has been a tepid 2 2 percent In 2011 s second quarter. It was 0 2 percent, worse than America s dismal 0 8 percent in the first half of this year. Some say the royal wedding distracted British workers. Really The shrinkage of government IS supposed to be more severe here than in America, where the supposedly savage, draconian,' etc , cuts recently agreed to mean that for a decade Washington must scrape by on $43 7 trillion rather than $46 1 trillion.
1 lie Associated Press Today is Thursday, Aug. 11, the 223rd day of 2011. There are 142 days left in the year Today's Highlight in History;
On Aug. 11,1934, the first federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz Island (a fonner military prison) in San Francisco Bay.
On this date:
In 1810, a ma|or earthquake shook the island of St, Michael in the Azores.
In 1860, the nation's first successful silver mill began near Virginia City, Nev.
Really ihe British state is morbidly obese for a third consecutive year, government will spend more than half tfie gross domestic product — partly because half of all jobs created during tfie 13 years of Labour Party governance that ended in May 2010 weie in the public sector Britain's debt, now 62 per cent of GDP is scheduled to rise to 71 percent iii 2013 14 before declining Government devours 47 percent of nation al income The five year goal of reducing it to 40 percent will be difficult because Cameron has a tepid mandate. In 2010, Conservatives almost suffered a fourth consecutive defeat, and failed to win a majority against an exhausted and unpopular Labour government This may be one reason Cameron fias flmclied fiorn seriously reforming the estab lished religion No, not the Churcfi of England, the National Health Service It IS sometimes adeqtjate regarding medicine but is a sensational jobs piogram It is the world's sixth largest employer (behind the Chi nese army. Wal Mart. Cfiina National Petroleum. China
State Grid Corporation and Indian Railways) Osborne says America's welfare reform of 1996 ' helped change thc debate over here Perhaps, but almost 30 percent of pub he spending here is still for a welfare system under which an unemployed single moth er with two children has more disposable income than a postal worker ihere is. Osborne says, considerable resentment among people who "go to work at seven in the morning and the blinds are down next door" Almost a fifth of British households have no wage earner, while immi grants are 13 percent of the work force fortunately, in Britain, as in much of the LI S . labor unions are fading forces British unions have only 7 million members, down from I i million 30 years ago.
When in June, leaders of a large public employees union engineered a one day strike, the members were not entfiu siastic and the public was not inconvenienced, Almost hall tfie Conservative members of Parliament v/ere first elected in 2010 and. like Republican members of the U S House first elected that year, tfiese Conservatives have a tea par ty like indifference to conven tiorial pieties, the worst of which celebrate the European Llnion Such has been the leakage of Britain's sovereign
In 1909, the steainsfiip SS Arapahoe became the first ship in North America to issue an S O.S. distress sig nal, off North Carolina's Cape Hatteras.
In 1949, President Harry S, Truman nominated General Omar N Bradley to become the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In 1952, Hussein bin Talal was proclaimed King of Jordan, beginning a reign lasting nearly 47 years.
In 1954, a formal peace took hold in Indochina, ending more than seven years of fighting between the
French and Communist Viet Minh,
In 1962, the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev on a 94-hour flight
In 1965, rioting and looting that claimed 34 lives broke out in the predominantly black Watts section of Los Angeles.
In 1975, the United States vetoed the proposed admission of North and South Vietnam to the United Nations, following the Security Council's refusal to consider South Korea's application.
ty to Brussels. Cameron's ability to deregulate his nation s economy is signifi cantly circumscribed
Only 22 percent of the British consider EU member ship a "good thing, now that the EU is busy transfer ring wealth to those who do not create it With a wary eye on Greece, and a possible contagion from it to Italy Spam, Portugal and others, Osborne fears a sovereign debt rerun of the financial cnsis triggered by tfie Sep ternber 2008 collapse of Lehman Brotfiers
He also worries tfiat Britain might be unfairly tainted by Asian and other investors deciding that "Europe is a basket case Well, yes The Economist leports tfiat thiee weeks ago, at an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders, jean Claude Irichet, president of the European Central Bank, distributed a ranking of coun tries deemed by maikets most likely to default "Gieece, Por tugal and Ireland were at tfie top riskier than Venezuela and Pakistan: Spam was less safe tfian revolutionary tgypt
Next year may be cheerier London will host the Olympics and the nation will celebrate the Queen s Dia mond Jubilee — 60 years of her reign This year, however, tfie refurbishing of Bucking ham Palace and Windsor Castle lias been deferred.
In 1991, Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon released two Western captives: Edward Tracy, an American field nearly five years, and Jerome Leyraud, a Frenchman who'd been abducted by a rival group three days earlier Ten years ago: In his weekly radio address. President George W, Bush said his decision to restrict but not forbid federal financing ot embryonic stem cell research placed him at the ciossfoads between protecting and enhancing human life.
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