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Perry move delays death penalty probe

  |   Sept. 30, 2009 at 11:16 PM
HOUSTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday named two new members to a panel investigating whether Texas executed an innocent man, a move that delayed the inquiry.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, named to head the Texas Forensic Science Commission, canceled a commission meeting set for Friday, the Houston Chronicle reported. Bradley said he canceled the meeting because he hadn't had sufficient time to study the case.

The panel had been scheduled to hear from fire expert Craig Beyler, who has criticized the investigation into the December 1991 fire that killed Cameron Willingham's 1-year-old twins and 2-year-old stepdaughter.

Texas put Willingham to death in 2004 but the TFSC voted unanimously in August to look into whether the conviction and execution were based on flawed science. Beyler has concluded that state and local investigators determined the fatal fire was deliberately set based on outdated and careless investigation techniques.

Perry has defended the execution of Willingham, who maintained he was innocent.

"I'm familiar with the latter-day supposed experts on the arson side of it," Perry said, making quotation marks with his fingers to underscore his skepticism, The Dallas Morning News reported last week.

He said even without proof the fire was arson, court records he reviewed before Willingham's execution showed "clear and compelling, overwhelming evidence that he was in fact the murderer of his children."

The Texas Legislature established the Forensic Science Commission in 2005 following a scandal involving the Houston Police Crime lab and problems associated with other Texas forensic labs.

Topics: Rick Perry
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