Thursday, October 25, 2012

Todd Willingham, Carlos DeLuna, touted as innocent Texans executed

Two items deserve Grits readers' attention related to possible false convictions that ended in Texas executions.

First, Todd Willingham's family, in conjunction with the national Innocence Project, is seeking a posthumous pardon, according to reports from numerous sources (e.g., see reports from the LA Times, the Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle). The national Innocence Project has posted documents related to the pardon application on this page. The news comes on the heels of additional coverage out of the LA Times about the review of old arson cases spawned by the Forensic Science Commission's report on the Willingham case. And the new state fire marshal has said he'll use the FSC report to revamp his agency's training and instruction protocols. So whether Willingham ever secures a posthumous pardon - and while Rick Perry is Governor, one tends to doubt the prospects - there's already a significant positive legacy stemming from this possible false execution. It will be interesting to see how the Board of Pardons and Paroles will respond.

Meanwhile, "In May, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review dedicated an entire issue to the story of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed by the state of Texas in 1989," reported the Boston Review on Oct. 22. "The article, “Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution,” forthcoming as a book, runs 434 pages long, reads like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and is groundbreaking in its detail and scope. Its conclusion: Texas murdered an innocent man." I haven't read Los Tocayos Carlos but the summaries I've seen (see prior Grits coverage), including the bullet points highlighted by the Boston Review, make it sound as though the case for his innocence may be more compelling, even, than for Willingham. In the Willingham case, no one could definitively say he didn't do it, merely that the arson testimony convicting him was hokum.. In Carlos DeLuna's case - which was based in part on a sketchy, cross-racial eyewitness identification - basically another man went to his grave saying "I did it." The case for DeLuna's innocence seems to be strong, though I'd want to read, or at least peruse (I won't pledge to review the thing!), the daunting tome that's been published before judging their conclusions.


DEWEY said...

"So whether Willingham ever secures a posthumous pardon - and while Rick Perry is Governor, one tends to doubt the prospects -..."

I doubt Gov. Perry would pardon his mother for jaywalking.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hadn't seen this, but it should be said: Perry's pardon record isn't great but it's far better than Obama's!, which is awful on epic, historical proportions.