The Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers LLC are suing Gov. Rick Perry in an effort to force the release of a clemency report Perry received before denying a stay of execution to Cameron Todd Willingham.
The report is a summary and status of the case against Willingham that was given to Perry at 11:30 a.m. on the day of Willingham’s 2004 execution in the fire deaths of his three daughters. Anti-death penalty advocates say modern fire forensics show the blaze cannot be proven as arson.
Perry’s office has refused to release the report, claiming it is a privileged document. The clemency document was used by Perry in the process of deciding whether to give Willingham a 30-day stay of execution.
“When it comes to human life, there is no place the governor should be more transparent in his decision-making,” said Jonathan Donnellan, an attorney for Hearst and the Chronicle.
“It should raise eyebrows that the governor is seeking to shield communications with his advisers as ‘legal advice,’ when the very idea of executive clemency power is to make a policy decision after the legal process has run its course,” Donnellan said.
In a just world, this would be a slamdunk, but in the world we inhabit, you never know. We know that Rick Perry really loves his secrets, and regardless of the context that’s just bad for transparency and good government. I hope the Chron gets a quick and decisive ruling in their favor.
On a related note, Grits does his own analysis of the case against Cameron Todd Willingham, and puts in an open records request to see if any of the recorded conversations between Willingham and his lawyer contained a confession. I’m very interested to see what he finds out.