TX-Gov: Rick Perry Compared to Nixon in Cover-Up of Todd Willingham's Execution

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The Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg asks: “Is Perry pulling a Nixon?

It would be a dangerous political liability for any candidate: The possibility that, as governor, Rick Perry presided over the execution of an innocent man

Yet, that's the prospect raised in recent years by several arson experts and exhaustive national media reports in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Maintaining his innocence until the end, Willingham was executed in 2004 for the deaths of his three small children in a blaze that destroyed their Corsicana home in 1991.

As we have blogged about previously (see links to our coverage below), Perry has since fired the Chairman and other two members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission in order to cancel and postpone the meeting and save himself the potential of having an official state group rule that he executed an innocent man.

Paul Burka of Texas Monthly has more in his post, simply titled, “Cover-Up” —

The commission was going to hear a report from an arson expert that the investigation leading to the conviction and execution of Cameron Willingham for the murder of his three daughters was flawed. The case has received national attention because of the possibility that Texas executed an innocent man on Perry’s watch. The removal of the three members forced the cancellation of the meeting and prevented the report from being heard.

Let’s call this what it is: a cover-up. The new chairman, Williamson County district attorney John Bradley, is a political ally of Perry’s (see below) who famously tough on crime. It would be a conversion of mythic proportions if he were to agree with the investigators’ criticism. He now controls when the commission will meet, and you can bet that the report will not be heard or discussed in a public forum before the March 2 primary.

Rick Perry has no political shame, but this latest stunt is simply outrageous and completely unacceptable. I'd have a lot more worse things to say, but the Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkbenberg says what needs to be said:

The governor's removal of dedicated public servants, apparently for being too diligent, too thorough, in revealing truths that happen to be inconvenient to his re-election bid, is an outrageous affront to the duties of his office.

Previous Coverage on BOR:


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Lisa Falkenbuerg rocks!
    I don't understand how so many people can't see through his good ol' boy pretense.  I put him right up there with Bush W.  Maybe we could prosecute them together…good ol' boys like to stick together ya know…

    • That she does
      Lisa takes a lot of flack from the right.  You should read some of the awful ad hominen attacks in the comments section.  The righties get very upset when Lisa tells the truth.  She is one tough reporter.  

  2. Farewell Rick Perry
    Barry Scheck will be on all the talk shows and Perry won't have a chance in hell of defending himself on this one. He'll be forced to resign. And so it will go…

    He canned the commission's chairman, Sam Bassett, his own two-term appointee, and replaced him with a new chairman who promptly canceled Friday's meeting on the Beyler report.

    “Is it true?” the Innocence Project's Barry Scheck asked me when I called him for comment, unable to believe it himself.

    Scheck likened the move to President Richard Nixon's infamous attempts to oust a special prosecutor investigating Watergate.

    “It's a Saturday night massacre, pure and simple,” Scheck said. “If you don't like the evidence, you just get rid of the judges.” [Emphasis added.]

    Just like Nixon, Perry doesn't see it coming.

  3. covergirl
    perry's blatant efforts to obstruct justice are shocking and shameful.

    i supported rick reed in the travis county DAs race solely because of his opposition to the death penalty.

    for the record, Kinky Friedman is proposing the Timothy Cole Commission (another innocent man murdered by the state) to verify the guilt or innocence of those assigned to death row. one of the reasons i agreed to work for him.

    i hope gilbert, schieffer, earle and any other Dem who gets in the race supports an independent commission to offer justice to our fellow Texans before they get executed.

    if we can't stand for fairness and justice, we cede the moral high ground forever.

    this latest example is just further proof that perry CANNOT do the right thing.  his morals and ethics are flexible and relative. i'm so ashamed to have him as a governor.

    ABP: anybody but perry

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