Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry’s rival for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, has said that while she supports the death penalty, she disagrees with Perry’s decision to replace the commission members.
She told The Associated Press on Wednesday in Houston that Perry should have allowed the panel’s investigation to go forward to ensure that Willingham was in fact guilty.
“I don’t have the facts. I’m not taking up for Mr. Willingham because I have no idea. I’m taking up for the process, for the criminal justice system in our state,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison, repeating a point her campaign has been pressing for days, said Perry’s actions were heavy-handed, much like his decision to replace appointees on university regent boards who didn’t back him.
“I think the majority of Texans believe the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for the crimes that are the state law for the death penalty. I think every one of the people who believe in the death penalty would want to know we are using DNA evidence and the best technology in all the fields to determine if a person is rightfully convicted,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison’s campaign issued a statement saying Perry’s handling of the commission has given liberals ammunition to discredit the death penalty.
A state fire marshal, now deceased, and a local fire investigator ruled the Willingham case was arson. The investigator stands by the findings.
But a Baltimore-based arson expert hired by the Forensic Science Commission to study the case, Craig Beyler, concluded that the arson findings were not scientifically supported and that investigators at the scene had “poor understandings of fire science.”
Perry said he wanted to remind the public of all the facts in the case, not “one piece of study that everyone is glomming onto and saying ‘Ah-ha.’”