Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bottling Up a Ghost

When the characters in the movie Ghostbusters captured an errant ghost they slid a little box under the ghost that had been immobilized by rays from their Proton Packs, stepped on a pedal and the ghost was seemingly sucked into the box and trapped inside.

It was later transferred to a “containment unit” back at their headquarters, never to see the light of day again.

Should Texas governor Rick Perry jump into the 2012 presidential race, he had better hope that he has a way to keep another ghost that haunts his past from seeing the light of day. It could be his undoing in a way that Willie Horton was the undoing of Michael Dukakis.

If it cannot be contained, the ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham will certainly emerge on the presidential campaign scene, a story that is very revealing of the character and temperament of a man who would be President of the United States.

In 1991, Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of killing his three daughters by setting his house on fire, allowing them to burn to death trapped inside. At the time, Perry was the Texas Agriculture Commissioner – and a Democrat.

He was executed in 2004. Rick Perry, who was governor by then – and a Republican – refused to grant a stay of execution citing the facts of the case and discounting a forensic expert’s report as “a waste of taxpayer dollars.” The report revealed that the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham was flawed and based on “folklore and myths.”

A jailhouse confession, also used to convict Willingham, has since been discounted and the man Willingham allegedly confessed to has since been diagnosed as bi-polar.

But the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham did not end the controversy. In 2009 a re-examination of the case was ordered, and the Texas Forensic Science Commission was all set to re-examine updated forensic evidence. Two days before the commission was to meet, Governor Rick Perry replaced the commission chair and two members. The new chair cancelled the meeting.

It was obvious to all that in doing this Perry was obstructing the re-examination, the findings of which could serve to his detriment in an upcoming Republican Primary where he was being challenged by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The meeting did not occur until April 2010, a month after the primary election was held, and Governor Perry was the Republican Party’s nominee again.

On July 23, 2010 the Texas Forensic Commission issued its report that the original evidence used not only to convict and execute Cameron Todd Willingham, but used by Governor Perry as reason not to stay his execution, used “flawed science” in its determination that arson was the cause of the fire.

Rick Perry has blood on his hands and he knows it. And more to the point, he was caught in daylight and out in the open trying to suppress the commission’s report.

George W. Bush became famous, infamous even, for these kinds of things, something that Americans found out about after the fact.

Not so with Rick Perry. Evidence of his self-serving obstructionist nature is there for all to see. With the ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham hovering over him, and not a Ghostbuster in sight, I think Rick Perry will have a problem here.

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