October 2nd, 2009
05:32 PM ET

Shake-up in Texas execution probe draws criticism, questions

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/10/01/texas.execution.probe/art.willingham.family.jpg caption="A family photo shows Cameron Todd Willingham with his wife, Stacy, and daughters Kameron, Amber and Karmon."]
Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye’s report on the case. AC360° 10 p.m. ET.

Matt Smith

An investigation into claims that faulty evidence led Texas to execute an innocent man in 2004 was at a "crucial point" when the state's governor replaced three of its members this week, one of the three said Thursday.

Gov. Rick Perry's shake-up of the Texas Forensic Science Commission came two days before it was to hear from the author of a scathing report in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. That Friday session has been postponed indefinitely in the wake of Perry's new appointments, and critics of the governor accused him of trying to quash the Willingham probe.

"I think people are making a lot of this issue," Perry told reporters Thursday in Austin, Texas. He said the replacement of commission Chairman Sam Bassett and commissioners Alan Levy and Aliece Watts, whose terms had expired, was "pretty normal protocol."

"If you've got a whole new investigation going forward, it makes a lot more sense to put the new people in now and let them start the full process, rather than bring people in there for a short period of time and then replace them," he said. "I think it makes a whole lot more sense to make a change now than to make a change later."

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment
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