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October 13, 2009

Comments

Kevin P., tell me, what would you call it when an innocent man is killed, despite expert testimony which makes clear that he was telling the truth, when a governor ignores an appeal based on said testimony? I remind you that Willingham refused a deal that would have kept him free of the death penalty, because, as he always said, he was innocent. Perry is now trying to rig the commission on this (a point which you have never addressed or defended). Tell me, what part of this do you not consider to be "judicial murder"? I will also point out that accusing Perry of committing murder by proxy, and wanting to kill an innocent person are not the same claim. Do I have to spell this out for you? As for your discussion of self-evident matters, perhaps you should consider your failure to offer any actual evidence for your claims? I see a lot of assertion from you about liberals - and very few facts. I remind you that concern over the abuse of a governor's powers (or similar abuse by any official) is hardly exclusively a liberal concern - it is a matter which concerns and should concern all good citizens.

Haha, now these two are apparently going to argue that defense attorneys have an obligation to tank cases if it appears that their clients are obviously guilty.

DNFTT, indeed.

Irrumator @3:45:

First off, extreme != extremist ("individuals or groups [who are] outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards").

Secondly, assuming arguendo that your statement of their position is correct (vide infra), a more accurate term would be "absolutist". Of course, that would also be less inflammatory.

Third, citation, please for where the Innocence project has put its official energies into banning the death penalty. All I see is advocacy for reforming the justice system to combat wrongful convictions (for capital and non-capital crimes).

What you're doing here is actually the very definition of ad hominem -- stating that we should ignore an argument because of who is making it rather than what it's content is.

Phil, your post is not logically correct. Ad hominem is not a fallacy when the specific issue is the credibility of given person. You and others are asking people to accept something as true because this person said it. That's an appeal to authority. When you make such an appeal the knowledge, veracity, and bias of the alleged authority is directly relevant.

The Republican party constantly spins that it supports "a culture of life" because it is a "pro-life" party. No they aren't! They are a PRO-BIRTH BUT NOT A PRO-LIFE PARTY. They could not care less about the life of the person they force to be born; the fetus they pull out of the womb and, without hesitation, throw into the frying pan of this world without the slightest concern about its future; its life! The prove that fact every day with their support of the death penalty; their support of a medical delivery system that guarantees that 122 Americans die each day because they don't have health insurance; their protection of the corporate terrorists who poison the water, air, soil and food--for another $ of profit--and causes the death of more Americans in a week than abortion kills in a decade; their centuries long notion of "property and profit over people"; their belief in war as a first alternative rather than a last resort!!!

Kevin P. you "breezily ignore" the role of the governor/executive as the "last line of defense" when it comes to reprieves, clemency, etc. Checks and balances and the like. An appellate court may be restricted in its ability to re-evaluate evidence, whereas the governor/executive is not.

Harley Spoon,

We've already covered the abortion angle. Not everyone who supports the death penalty opposes abortion. I, for example, support abortion because it's been proven to lower crime.

MockTurtle, I have provided evidence for you above that the expert testimony was reviewed by the concerned Court of Appeals which rejected it. You ignored it. You persist in denigrating the role of the court and the other actors in the judicial process, so that you can persist in accusing Perry of judicial murder (your own words).

I also provided evidence way above about Perry's role in the pardons for the wrongful Tulia drug convictions, not exactly consistent with your narrative that Perry doesn't care about innocence. This weakens your narrative that he is stacking the Board of Pardons so that he can avoid blame (if any). But you ignore this evidence too.

You have made up your mind that Willingham was innocent and Perry murdered him. There is little left to discuss. You seem to be one of the tolerant, inclusive and progressive crowd that is always right. Be happy with it.

"and causes the death of more Americans in a week than abortion kills in a decade"

If I thought it was more than a rant, I might require an actual cite for this. Its a lot of abortions in a decade and a leap to measure how many those corporate polluters kill in a week.

If I thought it was more than a rant, I might require an actual cite for this. Its a lot of abortions in a decade and a leap to measure how many those corporate polluters kill in a week.

Marty, you're not considering all the lives abortion saves by lowering the crime rate. When you take the crime reduction into account, pollution is MUCH worse than abortion.

Just as an aside for the posters or long time commenters, Did everyone hate Texas before Bush was President? Because we spend a lot of time talking about Texas as the central bastion of all things conservative (and bad).

I am ok with it, Texans are as proportionately conservative as those from Mass are proportionately liberal. I was just wondering what the historical record was?

You and others are asking people to accept something as true because this person said it.

I most certainly am not. Provide a cite for this, too, or retract it.

Now that Perry is talking about secession in a cynical bid to win Texas' growing ranks of neo-Confederates in a primary, I don't really have a problem of saying he has murderous intent. He is encouraging mob rule where the "law" is controlled by liberals, and ordering unquestioned authority where it is controlled by conservatives. He is sending more and more signals to our state's rednecks that they must prepare the way for a revolution against the ni**er-loving, criminal-loving socialist conspiracy. I wonder how they will pitch in and help out? Shades of Faubus and Wallace, who knew damn well their words would get people killed.

And yes, the current American political system rewards politicians for executing as many people as they can. No other democracy that I know of does that, even the ones that have the death penalty.

And it should also be painfully obvious, once again, that the only person questioning Hurst's veracity, objectivity and authority is Irrumerator, simply because it disagrees with Hurst's politics and/or conclusions. It doesn't appear to view the prosecution's experts with the same skepticism, for what are probably obvious reasons.

Nonetheless, it is clearly a troll, as it keeps trying to distract people with its silly abortion/crime rate comments, therefore I'm going to ignore it from this point forward and would strongly recommend others do the same.

Kevin P., tell me, do you serve chicken to go with the weak sauce? I ask because you are factually confused about this case, and persist in trying to cover this with rhetoric.

1) The expert testimony was inadequately reviewed by the Court of Appeals. It is clear that the prosecution "expert" is no such thing, while the defence expert is highly qualified in his field. Perry has a responsibility to examine and weigh the evidence properly - and there is no sign that he did so. If you have hard evidence that he did - produce it, or withdraw your claims.

2) The Tulia case is not the Willingham case. If Perry acted well once, that doesn't mean he acted well in all cases. Also, please stop constructing strawmen and attributing them to others. Radley Balko doesn't - remember him?

3) Willingham was innocent. This is clearly established by the expert testimony of numerous scientists. On this point, there is indeed little to discuss. But again, you offer no reason to disregard their unanimous testimony.

4) You have never offered any adequate explanation of Perry's attempts to rig the commission which is investigating forensic errors. By evading this point, you implicitly concede Perry's guilt.

5) Do you understand that simply yelling "Evil libruls", which is the substance of your arguments thus far, is not, in fact, evidence of anything except an impoverished capacity for analyzing or handling reality? Have you noticed that I have never said "conservatives are evil". I simply find Perry's abuse of power repellent. If you feel happy with a governor who abuses his powers and brings about the death of an innocent man, I don't assume you are conservative, simply rather lacking in awareness of how to be a good citizen in a democratic society.

Marty @4:14:

My unsupported impression is that it's more Texan exceptionalism than Texan conservativism per se that draws disapprobation. And that has a long history.

the only person questioning Hurst's veracity, objectivity and authority is Irrumerator, simply because it disagrees with Hurst's politics and/or conclusions.

So then you admit that his veracity, objectivity and authority are what's at issue. If I point out that he's biased because he works for the innocence project--an outfit founded by the OJ Simpson defense team--you can't dismiss that by calling it ad hominem. Ad hominem means "to the man." If you're actually talking about a man--in this case Hurst--it's not a fallacy.

And the link between abortion and crime is not silly. And I'm not trying to distract anyone. Jesurgislac brought up abortion, then Harley Spoon brought it up again. They're the ones threadjacking, not me.

the only person questioning Hurst's veracity, objectivity and authority is Irrumerator, simply because it disagrees with Hurst's politics and/or conclusions.

So then you admit that his veracity, objectivity and authority are what's at issue. If I point out that he's biased because he works for the innocence project--an outfit founded by the OJ Simpson defense team--you can't dismiss that by calling it ad hominem. Ad hominem means "to the man." If you're actually talking about a man--in this case Hurst--it's not a fallacy.

And the link between abortion and crime is not silly. And I'm not trying to distract anyone. Jesurgislac brought up abortion, then Harley Spoon brought it up again. They're the ones threadjacking, not me.

Still awaiting that cite about the Innocence Project and the death penalty, Irrumator.

The people of texas love killing. Period. They love guns, shooting, executions, murder, answering criticism with the end of a gun.

The governor is one of the most corrupt, evil members of a Purely immoral political party full of greedy, dishonest scum, harming innocent people everyday to accomplish their agenda.

"3) Willingham was innocent. This is clearly established by the expert testimony of numerous scientists. On this point, there is indeed little to discuss. But again, you offer no reason to disregard their unanimous testimony."

This is an opinion, it was an opinion per the 5th circuit, it is still an opinion. You have a right to it, but it doesn't make it fact.

The discussion here is whether the Governor should have given thirty days to allow someone to successfully argue that it was fact. I don't believe they could have in thirty days, but it would have been ok with me if he had given them the time.

Irrumator, as the New Yorker article makes clear, the scientists who have investigated this case all agree with Hurst. I also have to point out that you are engaging in ad hominem - which refers to any argument based on personalizing an argument, rather than arguing on the merits. By dragging in OJ Simpson irrelevantly,you are, in fact, constructing an ad hominem.

"My unsupported impression is that it's more Texan exceptionalism than Texan conservativism per se that draws disapprobation. And that has a long history."

Oh, I will concede our exceptionalism as it is hard not to recognize we are exceptional, and all this time I thought it was a false claim that drove the disapprobation. Thanks, forest and the trees mistake on my part.

Marty @4:33:

You do know that exceptionalism (e.g.) doesn't simply mean that you are exceptional, don't you?

Many places are exceptional. Few proclaim loudly it as a reason to make the choices they make and do the things they do.

Did everyone hate Texas before Bush was President?

I don't recall so. I think that Bush's past as Govenor and his routine signing of death warrants (laughing as he signed one) brought the utter failure of the Texas judicial system into public view. There have been more than a few cases of EXTREMELY inept defense council (one attorney slept through a trial) which resulted in an execution.

----------------------------

re OJ: The LAPD tried to frame a (probably) guilty man. The police are forbidden from framing anyone -- they brought defeat upon themselves.

"The people of texas love killing. Period. They love guns, shooting, executions, murder, answering criticism with the end of a gun.

The governor is one of the most corrupt, evil members of a Purely immoral political party full of greedy, dishonest scum, harming innocent people everyday to accomplish their agenda."

Now this seems unnecessary to me, but then it is describing me, inaccurately. I am a Texan, I don't own a gun, I know guys who like to hunt that would never use a weeapon on a person. I find the most honest and forthright people I have ever known are from my home state (like, my family). This, see, doesn't meet my definition of comity.

But I did ask for it so I will just move on.

"You do know that exceptionalism (e.g.) doesn't simply mean that you are exceptional, don't you?"

I understood the meaning of the word and the potential insult. Some things are just true.

I also have to point out that you are engaging in ad hominem - which refers to any argument based on personalizing an argument, rather than arguing on the merits. By dragging in OJ Simpson irrelevantly,you are, in fact, constructing an ad hominem.

I've addressed this before, and if you're incapable of understanding it you probably shouldn't use the term ad hominem.

If A says X is true because of reason Y, and B responds that X must be false because A is untrustworthy, that is a fallacious argument. B should instead respond to reason Y. A's personal character is irrelevant.

However, if A says that X is true because expert C says X is true, then it is not a fallacy for B to respond that C is untrustworthy. C's trusworthiness is relevant to the argument because it is the reason being offered for proposition X.

In this case, you are not putting forward independent forensic arguments in favor of Hurst's conclusions. You are asking us to accept Hurst's conclusions because of Hurst's reputation. When you make that arguement--an appeal to authority--you put Hurst's credibility at issue.

Marty @4:44:

Some things are just true.

I could not agree more, though I think we differ slightly on which things, precisely. You're certainly being...illustrative.

Irrumator, got that citation yet?

Irrumator, got that citation yet?

I haven't looked hard, but I admit I haven't found anything that says that the Innocence Project as an organization opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. However, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufield do both oppose the death penalty. What's worse is that they helped OJ Simpson get away with murder. The Innocence Project is an outfit founded by the OJ defense team, which should tell you all you need to know.

Irrumator -

I am happy to repeat that there is evidence that states that refuse to provide adequate counsel for defendants in capital cases (and adequate in this case means a big budget to give the defense lawyer comparable resources to the prosecutor's office and the police, say a million dollars per case) will be knowingly killing a proportion of people who are falsely convicted even after the appeals process because there will not have been a proper search for evidence.

Texas has one of the worst track records in this regard, but refuses to investigate their own problems in a systematic way or fix their treatment of indigent defendants. That tells me that they have long known that they kill the innocent and have no intention to fix it.


"Some things are just true.

I could not agree more, though I think we differ slightly on which things, precisely. You're certainly being...illustrative."

ER,

I am sure it is illustrative to understand that most Texans are aware of our own exceptionalism. In fact, it is a point of pride. We are taught from birth that it is special to be born in Texas, and life there reinforces that feeling. Texas is amazingly diverse geographically and culturally. The love of this diversity is extolled in song, poetry and art. We don't believe we are perfect, but exceptional is a given for most Texans. It is not a bad thing, although sometimes those who don't understand it think so.

We are also aware enough to joke about the belief that we are exceptional, we make fun of ourselves quite easily. But underlying all that is intense pride in our history and present, despite our flaws.


What's worse is that they helped OJ Simpson get away with murder.

No, at worst they stopped the LAPD from framing a suspect. that is against the law, in case you hadn't noticed.

Per teh request for civility, I will regrain from estimating your IQ and/or reading comprehension.

In other words, you had no basis for calling the Innocence Project "an anti-death penalty extremist group." You made that up, complete with inflammatory phrasing. Right.

So they were founded by people whose actions you don't like. That discredits them entirely; "that's all you need to know" about them. Nothing about the things they do, nothing about the other people involved, nothing about their goals, their achievements, or their cause matters.

That is, as a matter of fact, an ad hominem argument against the Innocence Project.

Charming, twice over.

Marty @5:03:

We are also aware enough to joke about the belief that we are exceptional, we make fun of ourselves quite easily. But underlying all that is intense pride in our history and present, despite our flaws.

Fair enough; thanks for that clarification. I didn't see the tongue in your cheek in your previous comment.

Perry contributed to the execution of an innocent person. And the formal recognition that Texas executed an innocent man would trigger a massive political earthquake -- one that would clarify to an inattentive public the utter barbarity and immorality of Texas's criminal justice system.

So yes, I can understand Perry's motives. But it doesn't change the fact that he is acting in a profoundly immoral way. The whole thing reminds me of a banana republic dictator clumsily covering up his crimes.

Here is another naked accusation of murderous and malicious intent.

Very briefly, I'd just like to point out that the first two paragraphs do not, in fact, make the accusation that the third claims.

Just for the record.

Marty, yes, Texas takes a beating from liberals and has done so for as long as I've been paying attention to such things.

Everybody doesn't like somebody.

Pretty much everyone who participates here has, at some point or other, made blanket negative statements about some other group of people in the abstract. hilzoy was scrupulous about not doing so, also Gary, but most everyone else is guilty. I am, and you are, for two.

Maybe we shouldn't do that, in the spirit of comity, but my guess is that folks are likely to continue doing so.

I think we all need to try to just shrug those off, because most of us can and do put that aside when dealing with individual other people.

I'm talking about stuff like "liberals always..." or "conservatives never..." or "typical lefty bull...".

I'm not talking about stuff directed specifically to another poster, to me that seems out of bounds.

But the broad-brush stuff, maybe we should just shrug it off and move on.

Just a thought. If it really bugs other folks and we all want to make a point of eschewing it, I'm fine with that also.

But underlying all that is intense pride in our history and present, despite our flaws.

Marty, pretty much everyone feels that way about where they come from.

By God we're so darn proud to be from Texas - yahoo!
Even of our pride we're proud and we're proud of that pride, too
Our pride about our home state is the proudest pride indeed
And we're proud to be Americans, until we can secede

One more stupid song about Texas
You've heard it all before so sing along
Biggest belt buckles and boasts, love that big old Texas toast
Let's sing another stupid Texas song

Texas is amazingly diverse geographically and culturally.

Amateurs, rank amateurs. We have the tallest mountain and the deepest desert in the continental US. We have Hollywood and Bezerkly and the EXTREMELY conservative Central Valley (not to mention the Libertarians of Irvine). We have surfer doods and immigrant workers. We have everything from Eureka to Yreka! (We also have everything from A to Z in the USA: Azusa)

BTW, the Secretary of State posts votes by county after each initiative vote. It's very interesting to see the splits: North / South, East / West, Cosmopolitan / Rural.

The Innocence Project is an outfit founded by the OJ defense team, which should tell you all you need to know.
Maybe it should tell you all you need to know. I prefer to rely on what they've done, and what they've said, as an organization. Which is why I've given them (small amounts of) money - because they do something important that the state not only refuses to do, but too often actively impedes; and because I've never seen the Innocence Project behave disreputably.

Amateurs, rank amateurs.

OK, look.

Profanity with the appropriate squiqqly characters. Accusations of bad faith. Tu quoque tsunamis, an efflorescence of trolls, and guy who names himself after oral rape.

I'm willing tolerate all of that.

But rampant civic boosterism will not stand!

@Noise Machine:
A doctor makes a mistake and kills a person instead of saving him; an executioner makes a mistake and kills an innocent person instead of a guilty one. There both innocent mistakes, no pun intended. And we shouldn't use either as a justification for abolishing the practice in question, be it medicine or capital punishment.

You quite studiously avoided my point. We do not have an alternative to dealing with medical problems outside of medical treatment. We do have alternatives to punishing those convicted of "capital" crimes outside of execution. Medical conditions cannot be treated without running some risk of the patient dying from negligent treatment. "Capital" crimes can be punished without any risk of an innocent being executed.

The analogy does not hold.

Irrumator, let me be clear on this: your latest ad hominem attack is on the Innocence Project. When you cite a very tangential connection to OJ Simpson as a reason for attacking their credibility, that is, indeed, a pure ad hominem. Please think through your own logic and use of terms before posting in such an aggressive way.

Marty, your argument breaks down completely because Hurst does NOT work for the Innocence Project. He became involved in the case when information about it was sent to him a reporter that had been interviewing Willingham. He became convinced of Willingham's innocence because of the similarities to another Texas arson case in which Ernest Wills had been exonerated after receiving a death sentence.

He used evidence from that case, including the burning of a house with a virtually identical floorplan that had been remodeled to match flooring and furnishings of Will's house.

That burn showed that everyone of the so-called indicators of arson that was used in both the Wills and Willingham cases also occurs in a post-flashover fire where the heat of the fire is sufficient to ignite an entire room and that the flashover point can be reached very quickly without the use of any accelerants.

His report was provided to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and later to Governor Perry, but it was not provided to the state or federal appeals courts which both ruled before he was brought in. In the report he specifically addressed every single one of the arson signs identified by the initial investigators and showed that none of them were reliable except the positive test for mineral oil, which was only found near where a barbecuse had been stored and not on any of the other samples sent for testing. Part of the current controversy is that there is no evidence either the Pardons Board or the Governor even read his report.

The Innoncence Project did not become involved until after an article was published by the Chicago Tribune several months after the execution. They commissioned a report by five of the nations top independent arson experts and sent their report to the Texas Forensics Review commission with a request for investigation. It is the commissions review of that report that Governor Perry is trying to derail.

So your attack on Gerald Hurst is not only an ad-hominem, it is both untrue and irrelevant.

I am sorry, it looks like my last post should have been addressed to Irruminator, not Marty.

Marty,

When you consider all the ways corporate terrorists cause the death of people via poisons in water, poisons in the air, poisons in the food, dangerous ingredients in food & drink--well, you get the picture--you could easily total up the number of legal abortions in a year in the USA and then compare it to the number of people who die from effects of the wanton greed and wanton carelessness of corporations whose job is not to save lives but to make money, you would see that my rant is correct...to even a degree I can't imagine...

1) "Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty:
"Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/04/cameron-todd-willingham-media-meltdown--the-death-penalty.aspx

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article.

My article, above, was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below

2) EXCLUSIVE: City report on arson probe:
State panel asks for city response in Willingham case
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/news/local_story_276222736.html

3) No Doubts
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/thewillinghamfiles/local_story_250180658.html

For a collection of articles, go to:

Corsicana Daily Sun, The Willingham Files
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/thewillinghamfiles

OTHER REPORTS: There is the potential for, at least, 3 more, official, reports on this case: the Texas Fire Marshall's office, which will give an official and requested reply, the Corsicana Police Dept. and Navarro County District Attorney's office, both of which, I speculate, may only contribute to the TFM report, but could issue their own reports.

There is an official "report" which, it appears, few have paid attention to - the trial transcript.

I find that rather important because, at least six persons, who were involved with the trial, two prosecutors, defense attorney, two surviving fire investigators and a juror have all voiced support for the verdict, still, in the light of the criticism of the arson forensics.

One of those original fire investigators is, now, an active certified arson expert.

The idea of a Perry cover-up in the Willingham case is idiotic.

Perry's replacement of the 5 board members was guaranteed to bring more outrage, more suspicion, more attention and, even more, negative political and media fallout.

And Perry knew that, before he did it.

Furthermore, the reports, highly critical of the Willingham trial forensics have long been in the public domain.

There is zero opportunity for a cover up, but a 100% chance of negative political fallout, which is the last thing Perry needs.

The question, then, is "Why DID Perry do this?"

It's a mystery. Maybe someone will try to solve it, instead of crying "cover up" when the case is, already, fully exposed.

The comparison of Perry's actions to Richard Nixon's firing of Archiblad Cox are idiotic. Nixon fired Cox before the release of the tapes. Predictably, that is Barry Sheck's analogy - simply stupid.

When I first moved to Texas, I thought (even as a National Review-subscribing young Republican) that Texas toast just meant they were too stupid to cook the other side.

Probably unfair and untrue, but that's age 22 for you.

So the prosecutors who described Willingham as a demon and a monster, the defense attorney who was convinced of his client's guilt before the trial started and who called only 1 witness, the arson investigators whose findings determined whether there even was a case in the first place and 1 (only 1?) of the jurors all still think Willingham was guilty. Somehow I am neither surprised nor particularly impressed. None of these people can afford to admit, even or perhaps especially to themselves, that they were so tragically wrong.

I am more impressed by 6 different independent and nationally respected arson investigators who all determined that there was no arson. Who reportedly determined that every single one of the indicators that led the original investigators to conclude that this was arson are also found in flashover fires and that some of them are specifically less likely to appear in an arson.

As for Perry's motive to replace the commission members and derail their investigation of the Willngham case, as long as no "official" body issues findings that Willingham was wrongly executed, then people like you and Irrudiator and others are free to dismiss the controversy as dueling experts and say who can really tell and continue to believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with or death penalty system. If Willingham is presumed to have been guilty, then it doesn't "really" matter if Governor Perry blew of his responsibility to carefully review the case and his interference with the Forensics review can be explained away.

It is only if someone, finally and officially, admits that an innocent man was executed, that a closer look will be taken at how it happened.

The debate on this is amazing. I'll be upfront - I represented Todd Willingham, and was the one who presented the expert report to the governor prior to the execution. I was set to attend the commission meeting, and like everyone else was told Wedensday afternoon that it was being cancelled.

I have been concerned from the beginning that a discussion of his case will be taken over by the anti-death penalty movement. Those on the other side dismiss the attacks as an underhanded way of attacking the death penalty. It may well have that effect, but the real issue is the use of science in the criminal justice system. This case is a perfect examample of why we should not rely on scientists to determine a person's guilt. Unfortunately, that debate is lost among all the political attacks, and those with other agendas.

And for those who are struggling with the belief that both the death penalty and abortion are wrong, its a fairly simple concept that Cathollic Social Justice has long championed - Life is sacred from conception to natural death. Pope John Paul years ago wrote about the effects of the "culture of death" and most of his predictions have come true. We treat life as something less than sacred; how else can a majority believe innocent people have been executed, but still believe in the death penalty?

Let's not forget that in this particular case, the defendant's Iron Maiden poster was cited as evidence that he might be a Satanist, thus providing him motive for the crime he allegedly happened. It's not too much of a logical leap to wonder if the Iron Maiden = Satanist mindset of the prosecutors might have checkered the way they investigated and analyzed the forensic evidence?

Additionally, I think the "they're bad people, so it's irrelevent if they actually committed the crime" mentality certainly was demonstrated during the after the fact rationalizations for the Iraq War and the non-existent WMD.

its a fairly simple concept that Cathollic Social Justice has long championed - Life is sacred from conception to natural death.

A great consolation to the family of a nine-year-old girl whose "natural death" would have been from a burst uterus after the fetuses conceived when her stepfather raped her got too big for either her, or the fetuses, to survive. "Life is sacred" - too sacred to save, according to the Catholic Church.

I notice that while the Pope has no problem condemning access to abortion - even performed to save the life of a nine-year-old girl - he's never yet excommunicated anyone for carrying out the death penalty. Odd, that, if "life is sacred", hm?

Seventy thousand women die each year because of illegal abortions. Abortion rates have gone down globally - because of better access to contraception, something else the Catholic Church opposes.

Still waiting for Pope Ratzinger to come out with anything as strong about the death penalty as he's come out with about abortion, contraception, homosexuality, or Islam.

Jesurgislac,

To be fair, how many Catholic governors are there in the US that have carried out executions?

To be fair, how many Catholic governors are there in the US that have carried out executions?

There have been 1,176 executions in the US since 1976. There are 3,316 prisoners on Death Row under threat of execution. cite

I have no idea how many Catholics have been directly involved in executing people since 1976 - from prison guards to medical technicians to doctors to judges. But the Catholic Church has never once suggested that a doctor who is responsible for injecting someone with a lethal cocktail of drugs that will kill them, or a technician who is responsible for running the current through a human body, or a judge who opts for the death sentence, or a prison guard who physically takes the prisoner from their cell to the execution chamber - that any or all of them should be excommunicated for doing so.

But a mother who wanted to save her nine-year-old daughter from a "natural death" from rape? She's excommunicated.

To be fair, the Texas Catholic Conference has an extensive and very clear section on the death penalty (they're against it). Sadly, they undercut their claims to respect human life by having an even longer section on denying women access to safe legal abortion and other healthcare services... but my issues with the Catholic Church are generally with its senior hierarchy, not with the grassroots Catholics doing the best they can with what they've got.

Jesurgislac,

My point was that unless its a Catholic governor signing off on the execution, then there's no one for the Pope to excommunicate.

Considering the death penalty is mostly a Southern Protestant thing, I'm not entirely surprised that the Pope hasn't chimed in. Hell, I think the last truly prominent Southern Catholic might have been Flannery O'Conner. (sarc)

My point was that unless its a Catholic governor signing off on the execution, then there's no one for the Pope to excommunicate.

There's the prosecution lawyer, if they call for the death penalty. The judge who decrees execution. The legislators who refuse to vote out the death penalty. The guards who lead the victim from his cell to the execution chamber. The doctor responsible for examining the victim before and after execution. The technicians responsible for setting the execution machinery in motion. None of them are excommunicated for taking part in an execution.

Do you know that the Pope threatened to excommunicate the Prime Minister of Canada for making same-sex marriage legal? No such threat has ever been applied to any legislator who made the death penalty legal. Lifting the ban on same-sex couples having access to civil marriage is apparently regarded as much worse than making it legal for the state to kill people.

Considering the death penalty is mostly a Southern Protestant thing, I'm not entirely surprised that the Pope hasn't chimed in.

What, you've got inside information that everyone in the prison system who takes part in an execution is a "Southern Protestant"? No Catholics at all, ever?

To be fair, how many Catholic governors are there in the US that have carried out executions?

Bob Casey Sr. signed 21 death warrants while he was governor of Pennsylvania; his successor, Tom Ridge, signed over 200. (The effect of Casey's stinginess in signing death warrants was that death row inmates got to spend an extra eight years in SCI Greene (where Charles Graner of Abu Ghraib fame learned his craft) and couldn't file the federal appeals triggered by the signing of a death warrant.)

This case is a perfect example of why we should not rely on scientists to determine a person's guilt.

Could you expand on this rather cryptic comment? If fire science is not key to this whole case, what is? If Willingham did not set the fire, which is what the vast majority of fire scientists are saying, then on what is the case against him based? How is he supposed to have committed the alleged murders?

This case is a perfect example of why we should not rely on scientists to determine a person's guilt.

It worked well for O.J.

Irrumator, could you please contribute something relevant or insightful, just once? Pointless babbling about OJ (and your ignorance of ad hominem) are tedious and add nothing to the discussion. I'd like to hear what Walter Reaves has to say, not your glib non-response.

Pointless babbling about OJ (and your ignorance of ad hominem)

I can't help it if you're too dense to understand argumentum ad hominem. Try consulting any basic logic textbook. I'd recommed Hurley. Questioning the biases of an expert is never a fallacy, when discussing whether to take that expert's word for something. I've explained that already. And while you're at it: look up "appeal to authority" in the informal fallacy section. You're not giving any ad rem arguments; you're just saying trust Hurst's opinion.

I can't help it if you're too dense to understand argumentum ad hominem.

Irrumator, please review the posting rules (with attention to the civility and no-vilification points) and comply. Consider this an official warning.

Questioning the biases of an expert is never a fallacy

Well, it can be. Say if you're asserting bias with no evidence other than guilt by very weak association? That there would be a fallacy.

Sorry. Consider it officially retracted.

Say if you're asserting bias with no evidence other than guilt by very weak association?

That's right, Hogan. If someone charges an expert on whom you're relying with bias, it's perfectly acceptable to respond by rebutting the accusation of bias. It's patently illogical, however, to dismiss the accusation of bias as "ad hominem."

Questioning the biases of an expert is never a fallacy, when discussing whether to take that expert's word for something. [...] It's patently illogical, however, to dismiss the accusation of bias as "ad hominem."

You make some valid points in re: argumentum ad hominem upthread from here. But they're not relevant. Let's examine some of your reasoning that supposedly lacks ad hominems, shall we?

However, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufield do both oppose the death penalty. What's worse is that they helped OJ Simpson get away with murder. The Innocence Project is an outfit founded by the OJ defense team, which should tell you all you need to know.

This is a glorious, shining example. The founders of the organization (which you can find no evidence of being categorically opposed to capital punishment, but still insinuate must be) strip the organization of all credibility. Why? Because they helped OJ get away with murder! They were on his defense team! They're Bad People, IOW, and because of this moral failing are not to be trusted. Rarely does one see so clear an example of argumentum ad hominem. Point, set, match.

Oh, and to forestall any "clever" rebuttal that their honesty is in question because they carried out such a nefarious deed: if they're defense attorneys, they're ethically obligated to try to do what they did. Their credibility would have been dealt more damage had they refused to seek meet their obligations to their client.

As patently illogical as repeating "OJ OJ OJ OJ"?

A bit belatedly on the medicine/death penalty comparision: If a doctor kills a patient through gross negligence (or in extreme cases deliberately*), then that doctor is legally responsible for the death of a human being and has to bear the consequences if found out.
As for the objetion to the term 'judicial murder', at least over here that is a proper legal term (Justizmord) and distinct from 'judicial error' (Justizirrtum). Btw, the term was introduced by Voltaire in 1777 and entered the German language in 1782 on occasion of the last European witch trial (outside the UK**).

*although that seems to be more common with nurses. I remember several cases in Germany with nurses killing a large number of patients in their care before being found out and charged with murder. I can't remember any spectacular case with a murderous physician (apart from one more than 2 decades ago suspected of infecting patients with his own HIV. He later claimed that all cases were accidental and I can#t remember what came of it).
**where the act was used for a last time in WW2 to prosecute a fraudulent medium.

This case is a perfect examample of why we should not rely on scientists to determine a person's guilt.

Huh? I thought the whole point of the review was that there were no no properly trained forensic scientists involved in the initial review.

This case is a perfect examample of why we should not rely on scientists to determine a person's guilt.
-----
I think the only way this makes sense is if he is saying we shouldn't rely 'exclusively' on scientists to determine guilt - there should be higher requirements. But it seems our lawyer isn't here to clarify so that's just me guessing.

As for the objetion to the term 'judicial murder', at least over here that is a proper legal term (Justizmord) and distinct from 'judicial error' (Justizirrtum).

Hartmut, I think Justizmord would be better translated as "judicial homicide" rather than "judicial murder." Judicial homicide is a proper term here too. When a prisoner is executed, that's what's listed as on the death certificate as the cause of a death.

But there's a major difference in connotation between "homicide" and "murder." Homicide simply refers to killing a person. It does not imply any moral judgment. For example, if I kill someone in self-defense that's justifiable homicide. If I accidentally kill someone that's excusable homicide. "Murder," on the other hand, always implies immorality or criminality. It exclusively refers to deliberately killing someone without justification.

In other words, judicial homicide is what happened to Cameron Willingham. Murder is what happened to Nicole Brown Simpson.

Irrumator, I can accept your apology, but not your clear misunderstanding of ad hominem. As I said earlier, and Nombrilisme Vide has now confirmed, your attack on the Innocence Project is a clear example. Might I suggest that you reread your textbook? I would also suggest that you read the work of Douglas Walton, which is helpfully entitled "Ad Hominem Arguments". He offers a valuable historical discussion, going back to Aristotle, as well as an insightful typology of the varieties of ad hominem attacks. Hopefully it will resolve your confusion on this complex issue.

Hmmm, this is getting at least some national exposure since it's on Hardball now.

The term Justizmord was originally coined as implicating active misdeeds by the court (i.e. provable perversion of justice) but is now generally considered to also include negligence and indifference, if they lead to the execution of an innocent person. The reason seems to be that not caring in a case of life and death, although that is someone's job goes beyond mere Totschlag (homicide). A case of innocent error* would be likely categorized as lethal judicial error (tödlicher Justizirrtum).
The discussion is of course mostly academic over here, since Germany** dropped the death penalty in 1949.

*e.g. German police for years chased a serial criminal that turned out to be a phantom caused by Q-tips contaminated by the DNA of a (female) worker in the Q-tip factory. Iirc suspicion started only after the DNA also showed up in cases of rape (female rapists rarely leave semen stains ;-) )
**Western Germany to be precise. The GDR dropped it de facto in the 70ies and formally in 1987.

Irrumator, I can accept your apology, but not your clear misunderstanding of ad hominem

The most polite thing I can say, MockTurtle, is that either we're not talking about the same thing, or that you're just plain wrong. Forget the crap about OJ for a second--that was tangential BS on my part.

Do you agree that it is not a fallacy to question the bias or competence of a putative expert, when asked to accept that expert's opinion because of his expertise?

@Irr -- not sure if you saw my comment on the other thread. First, let me clarify that I think you've added a lot of substance to the comments past few days, even if I disagree on merits with many of them.

But that said, would it be possible to use a new handle? I'm not ordering or anything, just asking. It's been disturbing a lot of people, and it would be a nice gesture. thanks

In response to publius' request I've sufficiently Bowdlerized my handle. Since people routinely write "f*ck" here, I feel this is more than enough, as my handle only has the potential to offend those familiar with obscure terms in dead languages, while f*ck is instantly recognizable to everyone.

1) "Cameron Todd Willingham: Media Meltdown & the Death Penalty:
"Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", by David Grann, New Yorker

http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/10/04/cameron-todd-willingham-media-meltdown--the-death-penalty.aspx

As more reality comes to light, the more into disrepute run's Grann's article.

My article was written and released prior to the Corsicana Fire Marshall's report, below

2) EXCLUSIVE: City report on arson probe:
State panel asks for city response in Willingham case

http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/news/local_story_276222736.html

3) No Doubts

http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/thewillinghamfiles/local_story_250180658.html

For a collection of articles, go to:

Corsicana Daily Sun, The Willingham Files
http://www.corsicanadailysun.com/thewillinghamfiles

OTHER REPORTS: There is the potential for, at least, 3 more, official, reports on this case: the Texas Fire Marshall's office, which will give an official and requested reply, the Corsicana Police Dept. and Navarro County District Attorney's office, both of which, I speculate, may only contribute to the TFM report, but could issue their own reports.

There is an official "report" which, it appears, few have paid attention to - the trial transcript.

I find that rather important because, at least six persons, who were involved with the trial, two prosecutors, the defense attorney, two surviving fire investigators and a juror have all voiced support for the verdict, still, in the light of the criticism of the arson forensics.

One of those original fire investigators is, now, an active certified arson expert.

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