Perry’s Crime


prisonWhen Gov. Rick Perry obstructed an investigation into the execution of a man experts say was innocent, he committed a crime against all Texans. State executions are carried out in our names, collectively and individually. Subverting the truth in such a matter is a betrayal of the public trust that is difficult to describe or comprehend.

But Perry may have also committed a crime against the U.S., and I’m not talking about his secession threats. He may have violated federal law,  U.S.C. 18.1001. This is no trivial matter. An innocent man was executed. Federal laws and guidelines are in place to keep that from happening. Perry may well have violated those laws and guidelines, for which there are criminal penalties.

Last night, CNN commentator, Texas hero and political strategist Paul Begala wrote us at DogCanyon with the following observation about our post earlier yesterday:

Glenn, thanks for this important post. The eyes of the world are upon Texas, which has almost certainly executed an innocent man. Bully for you for tying this outrage to Perry’s anti-government rants with the teabaggers.

Let’s see if I get this straight: Perry and the teabaggers don’t trust the government to write an insurance policy, but they do trust the government to lock a man in a cage for years, to strap that man down on a gurney, and fill his veins with poison – in the case of poor Mr. Willingham, for a crime he did not commit. I know a lot of principled conservatives who oppose the death penalty, based on their distrust of government. Perry, of course, is neither truly principled nor truly conservative. He is a small man, a moral coward, and a political opportunist of the worst sort. Thank you for calling this to my attention.

There oughta be a law against hypocrisy such as Perry’s. It turns out there might be. Follow us on the jump for details on the statutes and guidelines Perry may have violated.

§ 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

Doesn’t the language seem like it was written with Rick Perry in mind:  “falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact”? But there’s even more to it than that.

Texas receives millions of dollars in crime-fighting money from the Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program of the U.S. Justice Department. To receive that money, Texas had to create the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The applying and receiving agencies, including the governor,  certify that an independent, external agency exists that will investigate “negligence or misconduct substantially affecting the integrity of forensic results.”

Now, read this special note attached to the Justice Department’s application guidelines, because they specifically invoke U.S.C. 18.1001 cited above:

Note: In making this certification, the certifying official is certifying that these requirements are satisfied not only with respect to the applicant itself but also with respect to each entity that will receive a portion of the grant amount. Certifying officials are advised that: (1) a false statement in the certification or in the grant application that it supports may be subject to criminal prosecution, including under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and (2) Office of Justice Programs grants, including certifications provided in connection with such grants, are subject to review by the Office of Justice Programs and/or by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General.

In other words, the United States Justice Department tells its Coverdell Grant recipients that they’d better have an independent forensics agency of the highest integrity, and they’d better not falsify, conceal, or cover up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact.

If firing three members of the commission and bringing to a screaming halt an investigation and hearing about the execution of an innocent man is not a trick to cover up material facts, nothing is.

By the way, it won’t be a defense for Perry to claim the agency once was independent, or once had integrity. Justice  expects those to be ongoing conditions, so to speak.

Furthermore, the Office of Justice Program’s Standard Forms and Instructions specify that grant applicants must follow the granting agency’s rules and guidelines:

4. It will comply with all lawful requirements imposed by the awarding agency, specifically including any applicable regulations, such as 28 C.F.R. pts. 18, 22, 23, 30, 35, 38, 42, 61, and 63, and the award term in 2 C.F.R. § 175.15(b).

The Coverdell requirements clearly state (in a pdf link found in the eligibility section, “2009 solicitation document”):

A certification regarding external investigations into allegations of serious negligence or misconduct. Each applicant must submit a certification that “a government entity exists and an appropriate process is in place to conduct independent external investigations into allegations of serious negligence or misconduct substantially affecting the integrity of the forensic results committed by employees or contractors of any forensic laboratory system, medical examiner’s office, coroner’s office, law enforcement storage facility, or medical facility in the State that will receive a portion of the grant amount.”

The Justice Departement and its Office of Inspector General regularly investigate Justice’s grant recipients. If they are not already investigating Perry’s attacks on state Forensic Science Commission, they soon will be.

As noted yesterday, law enforcement agencies throughout Texas receive major grants from the Coverdell program, and all the grants are contingent on the federal government’s insistence that an independent investigating agency of the highest integrity be empowered to certify forensic labs and look into negligence and misconduct. Perry may have put that crime-fighting money in jeopardy. That in itself should be a crime.

I am no lawyer, so I will have to leave it to Justice Department investigators to decide whether to pursue a criminal case against Perry.  The law clearly prohibits acts of the sort Perry just committed. By destroying the independence and integrity of a critical law enforcement agency to conceal material facts, Perry did exactly what the law told him not to do.

The laws are intended to clean up sloppy forensics work that leads to gross injustices. They are intended to guard against injustices committed by crime labs the Forensics Commission oversees. It is a peculiar circumstance when a governor subverts the functions of the watchdog agency itself. Once again, there’s nothing trivial about laws and guidelines intended to guard against the execution of the innocent and other injustices. In the end, we can only hope that justice, as they say, will prevail.

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

17 thoughts on “Perry’s Crime”

  1. Keep it coming, Glenn!

    I fear it’s going to take some ongoing and concerted efforts to get public attention. I also fear some will, as someone said in an earlier thread about this situation, assume Mr. Willingham was guilty, regardless of the expert forensic evidence. But I also think there are people who will be upset, angry, sad, and who demand Perry be held accountable for his actions.

  2. Your readers who want to prevent another Willingham-like wrongful conviction and execution from ever happening again can join the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty “Shouting from the Rooftops” campaign. Visit for details. Let Governor Perry and anyone else attempting to hide wrongful convictions and executions know that the truth will prevail! Great blog post, Glenn!

  3. Can WE have a DC style march in Austin to bring attention to Perry’s unethical, possibly illegal, and gross disregard for the truth??…andy

  4. I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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