Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a guest appearance on the New York Times op-ed page today with a column called “The Haunting of Rick Perry.” Really? Perry, “haunted”? Sorry, that’s hard to believe.
TNC imagines that if Perry runs for president he’ll be “haunted” by the ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of murder and executed in Texas, in part based on the words of an informant who later said of his testimony, “the statute of limitations has run out on perjury, hasn’t it?” Perry quashed an investigation into the dubious use of forensics in the case.
But this is America — who cares? And who ever cared about George W. Bush’s approach to capital cases as governor, apart from a few of us cranky liberals?
Sending an innocent man to the death chamber — heck, that’s just iconographic American justice, Southern style; I think that’s because even people who are able to grasp that it’s unjust regard it on a subconscious level as entertaining, like stuff they see in old movies or modern TV police procedurals.
You know what would get Perry in trouble, or might have done the same to W? Getting crosswise with the likes of Nancy Grace, and the whole apparently massive universe of tabloid-crime junkies, on some young-blonde-in-peril or missing-blond-child case. I admit it’s hard to imagine Perry and Grace ever being on opposite sides — her vindictiveness would do a Texas politician proud. But it’s conceivable that someday the tabloid-crime-voyeur world will rally around someone (probably young and pretty) who’s regarded as unjustly prosecuted/convicted — and if that person happens to be in Texas, then maybe America might give a crap about Rick Perry’s approach to justice.
But railroading an innocent person into a lethal execution in an unsexy case? Or a series of innocents? America doesn’t care.