The QueQue: Racist gun instructor proudly shame-free, After Willingham: Arson investigators get new rules, UTSA prof considers Libyan run for presidency
Published: November 2, 2011
The recommendations, and the willingness of the State Fire Marshal’s Office to examine past arson cases, may be the sole bright spot in a heated controversy that has dragged on for years. Before Willingham’s execution in 2004 for the arson-murder that claimed his three daughters, fire-science experts had already begun to seriously question the forensic evidence used to convict him. Despite those growing questions, Governor Rick Perry refused to issue a 30-day stay and Willingham’s execution marched forward. Since then, roughly a dozen arson experts have reviewed the case, calling the arson investigation seriously flawed and saying evidence indicates the fire was accidental.
Soon after the state executed Willingham, the Innocence Project lodged a formal complaint over the case with the Forensic Science Commission, whose investigation sputtered along until last year. Days before the commission was set to finally dig into the case in 2009, Perry, eying a primary fight for the governorship, shuffled the board, removing key FSC members and appointed Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley as chair, an ally who immediately put the Willingham investigation on hold.
Once the commission finally began hearing testimony from fire-science experts last spring, Bradley, who while still chair of the commission called Willingham was a “guilty monster”, took his obstructionism to a new level, questioning his own commission’s authority to even touch the case, asking the Attorney General to weigh in. By summer, Abbott’s ruling stopped had quietly stopped the investigation.
Along with Abbott’s ruling essentially neutering any future FSC inquiry (the commission may review old cases, provided it doesn’t actually use any old forensic evidence to do so), the commission’s entering its next chapter with a slate of new appointees, including former Bexar County Chief Medical Examiner Vincent Di Maio and the reappointment of Tarrant County medical examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani to chair the commission, picked this year after the state Senate refused to confirm Bradley back to the post. Though it now seems the commission will never officially answer the all-important question of whether the state executed an innocent man, maybe the new recommendations rolled out this week will help keep it from ever happening in the future.
UTSA prof considers Libyan run for presidency
Photo by Michael Barajas
When we last spoke with Libyan dissident-turned chair of UTSA’s political science department Mansour El-Kikhia in early September, he was on the eve of a trip back to Benghazi, the home he fled over 30 years ago fearing for his life. A prominent member of the Libyan opposition, El-Kikhia has fanned the flames of dissent from afar for decades, speaking out against the regime of Muammar El-Qaddafi, writing extensively about the Libyan dictator in newspaper columns, academic papers, and even books challenging the madman of Libya. And as the Libyan uprising grew, spreading across his country, El-Kikhia became a trusted advisor to the opposition, in close contact with members of the opposition’s transnational council.