Texas governor defends disputed execution

Sept. 21, 2009 at 7:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry says the 2004 execution of a man for killing his daughters in a house fire was justified despite disputes over evidence of arson.

Top fire experts have excoriated the process used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham of Corsicana, Texas, for the 1991 slaying of his three young daughters, saying their review of the case yields no evidence the fire was intentionally set. Perry struck back Sunday, asserting the "supposed experts" are wrong, The Dallas Morning News reported.

"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.

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."

"Governor Perry refuses to face the fact that Texas executed an innocent man on his watch," Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, told the newspaper. "Literally all of the evidence that was used to convict Willingham has been disproven -- all of it."

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