Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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October 14, 2009

Perry: Willingham ‘a monster’

AUSTIN — A man put to death in 2004 for killing his three children was “a monster,” and suggestions that he may have been innocent are anti-death penalty propaganda, Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday.

Cameron Todd Willingham’s convictions were upheld several times before he was put to death, and recent media reports looking into whether Willingham may have been innocent glossed over evidence that showed he murdered his children, Perry told reporters after addressing Texas Association of Realtors members at a luncheon.

“Willingham was a monster. He was a guy who murdered his three children, who tried to beat his wife into an abortion so that he wouldn’t have those kids. Person after person has stood up and testified to facts of this case that quite frankly you all aren’t covering,” Perry said.

Willingham was convicted of capital murder for the 1991 deaths of his children, 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron. Prosecutors said he set fire to the family’s Corsicana home while the children were inside.

Forensic scientists have called into question arson evidence used to convict Willingham, who maintained his innocence until his death. John Jackson, the Navarro County prosecutor who argued the case, still believes Willingham is guilty, but acknowledges it would have been hard to win a death sentence without the arson finding.

The governor has been criticized for replacing members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission just before they were to review a new report critical of the arson science used to convict Willingham. If the evidence ultimately proves Willingham did not kill his children, it would be the first known wrongful execution in Texas.

Perry dismissed suggestions he was trying to influence the commission’s findings, calling the commission members’ replacement a matter of “process.” He said capable new members of the panel will move forward with the investigation.

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