Op Ed: Justice in Perry’s Texas
By: Debra Medina
The question, Governor Perry, is NOT whether or not Cameron Todd Willingham was a “bad” man. The question sir is whether or not justice was served? Was he guilty of the crime that resulted in his execution? You are not jury and judge! You are, for the moment, our governor whose job it is to see that our laws are faithfully executed.
Your behavior is beyond reprehensible. Your action here adds to the mounting body of evidence that you give lip service to life and have repeatedly abused your office and the public trust.
In Feb. 2007, Texans learned that children placed under the state’s care had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of employees of the Texas Youth Commission. Even after the TYC admitted that at least 10 teenage boys were victimized at the West Texas State School, newspapers reported over 750 additional complaints of sexual misconduct against correctional officers and other TYC employees dating to January 2000. It took you, Gov. Perry, over 7 years to address the problem and today the agency continues to operate with little public confidence.
Then in June 2008, during the aftermath of the state’s abduction of 400 children from their families, you set yourself above the law declaring, “If responsibility needs to be taken for [court edicts] saying that we stepped across some legal line,” you said you’d certainly take that responsibility. But what responsibility did you take? You ignored the evidence (the Supreme Court found “The Department failed to carry its burden with respect to the requirements of [the Law]. The Department did not present any evidence of danger to the physical health or safety of any [children]… The Department also failed to establish that the need for protection of the children was urgent and required immediate removal of the children… How does tearing families apart protect life? How are children protected, how are any of us protected when you are willing to step across legal lines?
In May of this year, Texans learned that state employees were forcing residents in state schools for the mentally disabled to fight like animals for the staff’s entertainment and a federal civil rights investigation has found a “pervasive pattern of abuse.”
Now we learn that you are working overtime to suppress testimony that speaks to the accuracy of a verdict that sent a man to his death in 2004. This case is not about Cameron Todd Willingham’s character, his relationship with his wife or his employment status. It is about whether or not the evidence used to convict him of arson in a fire that resulted in the death of his three children was, in fact, arson. While that evidence will not change the outcome for Mr. Willingham, it could effect evidence and testimony in future cases and could dictate that the convictions of numerous individuals currently incarcerated on similar evidence be reviewed.
But perhaps to get to the heart of the matter, it could put another chink in your armor. It could provide compelling evidence that you, even as far back as 2004, had begun a willful and habitual pattern of ignoring evidence while you sat as jury, judge and executioner for Texas.
You’ve ignored Texans for too long. You’ve cost the state in ways too complex to measure – you’ve ignored us when we told you not to take our land, you’ve ignored us when we told you not to take our children, and now it appears you ignore even the duty to insure justice.
That duty is yours and yours alone, to serve as the chief executive officer of this state and to cause the laws to be faithfully executed. Instead, you’ve focused on traveling the globe, wining and dining international business executives while Texas’ weak and most vulnerable have suffered greatly on your watch.
If you truly cared about life, you’d work hard to protect the innocent and most vulnerable. You’d address the issues facing Texas openly and honestly. Instead, you gut commissions and dismiss evidence to insure the veneer remains unblemished. Meanwhile your negligence chars the soul of our humanity and fosters a growing disrespect for life and property, the very foundations of our liberty. Texas deserves better. I’ll fight to insure justice and to protect life, liberty and property for all Texans!
Nelda Carrizales Skevington
Debra Medina for Governor of Texas 2010