Rick Perry Signs A Decent Bill For Once In His Miserable Life

by evanmcmurry

Fresh from saving Christmas while vetoing everything else—he’s a reverse-Grinch!—Rick Perry took a moment to sign a decent piece of legislation last week. Grits For Breakfast (settle down) explains: “Governor Perry has signed SB 344 by Whitmire/Turner ensuring access to the courts for habeas corpus writs based on junk science that’s been debunked since the trial.”

The most notable antecedent to this bill is the very strange trial of Hannah Overton, who was convicted in 2006 of murdering her child via “salt poisoning,” which is exactly what it sounds like. In 2010, a judge ordered a review of the spotty trial (as always, Texas Monthly was on the case), stating, “This disconnect between changing science and reliable verdicts that can stand the test of time has grown in recent years, as the speed with which new science and revised scientific methodologies debunk what had formerly been thought of as reliable forensic science has increased.”

Opponents of the bill say it makes the legal system vulnerable to endless frivolous appeals—surely an enterprising defense attorney can wrangle up endless amounts of “updated science” to keep an appeals process going forever. But as Texas is run by an execution-happy governor, the more avenues for appeal the better. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I hear “Texas” and “bad science” is Cameron Todd Willingham. Perry’s “oops” moment will attend his funeral, but I bet Willingham is what keeps him up at night; perhaps this bill is an attempt at expiation?

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