Still looking forward to ACL Fest! Only one day away! All of you Adventurers keep your eyes peeled for the homemade, tattered "Crack" flag that usually flies over our home base. It sounds like it might rain a little, but I'm okay with that so long as it's not a constant, steady downpour that turns Zilker Park into a mudhole. A little rain is a decent trade off for cooler temperatures, though (at least in my mind).
Not much else to report.
I watched another episode of Glee last night, and somehow I still like it. It's got some serious cheese to it (could a show about a show choir be any other way?), but it's got some well written characters, a better than average plot (or at least better than you would expect), it's funny, and it has some fun music. It also manages to produce occasional moments that actually feel triumphant. The writers kind of have a knack for exploring the weaknesses and struggles of the characters and then allowing them to express their victories- and occasionally their setbacks- through songs. I'm also just enjoying Glee because it's something that actually feels different and fresh and new- even though, yes, I realize that the show is a sort of throwback to stage musicals, movie musicals, and TV programs of yesteryear (but I think that the plotlines, which deal with everything from homosexuality to teen pregnancy to failed marriages, sort of helps to keep the show feeling unusual and unique). That sort of feeling is hard to find in television these days.
So I still like Glee.
There was an article on the CNN homepage today about how Governor Perry has disrupted an investigative probe into a death penalty capital punishment case. The probe, which was being conducted by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, has been looking into the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Corsicana man who was convicted and then executed in 2004 for the murder of his three children by way of arson. Later scientific analysis of crime scene evidence by impartial investigators has cast doubt on the claim that the fire was intentionally set, thereby leading death penalty advocates to advance the claim that a wrongfully convicted, innocent man was executed in this case (which would be unprecedented if proven true).
Perry removed the current chairman of the commission, Sam Bassett (a defense attorney that I know on a personal basis because he practices at our courthouse) and appointed John Bradley, the District Attorney of Williamson County (who has a reputation for being a very aggressive prosecutor), only a couple of days before a hearing was scheduled in which the Forensic Science Commission was to hear evidence relating to Willingham's case. Former Chairman Sam Bassett told reporters that he had asked to stay on board, and another commissioner, Alan Levy- a prosecutor from Fort Worth, stated that he had warned the governor's office that a personnel replacement at this point in time was likely to be disruptive. Bassett submitted a written statement declaring that the investigation should continue. The hearing itself has been postponed without a future date being set, and observers question whether it will ever actually be held at all.
This really bothers me. I'm sort of conflicted on a philosophical level about the death penalty (I don't like the idea of the state using death as a punishment, but then again, it's hard for me to say that it's wrong or unjust to execute someone when the defendant has callously take the life of someone else), but on a practical level, I have always found the death penalty unacceptable. Mostly I find it unacceptable because I have always believed that the government and the courts are fully capable of making mistakes. The courts aren't infallible. They're filled with people who are usually putting in a good faith effort to find justice to the best of their ability, but the system isn't perfect, and evidence can be misinterpreted or be misleading. I don't think mistakes are made very often, and as I understand it, this would be the first case where the evidence might later cast some serious doubt upon the guilt of someone who was executed (or exonerate him entirely), but there have been a significant number of other serious cases (aggravated rapes, for example) where defendants have been exonerated after spending many years in prison. It always seemed to me like sooner or later we were going to accidentally execute the wrong person (someone who didn't actually do the things they're accused of), and it looks like there's a decent chance that Willingham's case might have been the terrible mistake that I was afraid of.
What bothers me even more than the fact that this mistake was made has been the way that Governor Perry seems to be handling it. Even people who are strongly in favor of the death penalty have to support the idea that it needs to be used with the utmost care and with the highest level of conscience possible. It's never going to be okay for the state to just throw up their hands and say that "we're doing our best" when it comes to the death penalty. That's one of the problems with implementing it on a practical level. If we execute 99.99% of the guilty people, but every once in a long while we accidentally let one innocent person get killed, that's still completely unacceptable. If you're going to execute people, they ALL have to be absolutely, for sure, 100% guilty. Since I just don't think perfect infallibility is a genuine possibility in the realm of criminal justice, I'm against the death penalty. You have to leave room to correct some mistakes in the criminal justice system, and you just can't remedy death as a mistake.
Perry's reaction, which appears to have been a quick move designed to bury the matter and cover it up (and I would really like to be proven wrong about that), may end up just adding fuel to the fire. Death penalty opponents will point to his maneuver as further proof that the government can't be trusted, and argue that other mistakes may have already been made which have been covered up.
Mostly I'm disappointed because I think that the police, prosecutors, and the state need to always take (and own) truth as a final objective, and they need to always actually, genuinely seek to make sure that they're pursuing justice (which is especially true when life and death are at stake). The pursuit of truth as one's main objective is the only way you can actually do the right thing and not just be self righteous when it comes to enforcing the law. If this sounds like a naive position to some people or they're too cynical to buy into it, those people shouldn't be involved with law enforcement or prosecution.
Prosecutors and law enforcement need to examine our possible mistakes, own up to them when we find them, and take the same responsibility for our actions that we expect from the people in the communities that we're policing.
I know that all of this probably sounds like preaching or grandstanding to some people, but I just think that the pursuit of truth, no matter where it leads, really is the only way you can try to do the job the right way when you're involved with the criminal justice system from the law enforcement side. I don't mean to get on my high horse about these things, but when it looks like the governor might be obstructing an inquiry into the potential execution of an innocent person, that seems to be an act which is so patently wrong that it's hard to argue against without simply reverting to some very basic ethical principles of law enforcement (meaning, perhaps it seems like I'm being preachy about basic, obvious morality, but I guess maybe these things bear repeating when it seems our own governor may not be understanding these concepts).
Uggh. I need to run, but I hope that this investigation and this hearing don't just die because of politics. If the governor took these actions in the hope of somehow covering this whole thing up, I think he went completely the wrong direction. He would have been a lot better off if he had supported the investigation, even if he did so with the end goal of trying to improve and shore up the use of the death penalty (he could at least show a commitment to finding additional ways of making sure innocent people aren't executed).
The whole topic makes me depressed.