It was an unusual hearing. The subject at the center of it all, Cameron Todd Willingham, was not present. After being convicted of murdering his three children in a 1991 house fire, he was executed in 2004.
Members of Mr. Willingham’s family, working with lawyers who oppose the death penalty, had asked for the rare and controversial hearing, held here on Thursday, to investigate whether Mr. Willingham was wrongfully convicted. They argue that the proceeding, known as a court of inquiry, could restore Mr. Willingham’s reputation, a right guaranteed under Texas law, even to the dead.
The quote from Justice Holmes sums up the part of the problem for those facing a sentence of death. Politicians will continue to spout platitudes and rhetoric about how much review a particular case has received. What they don't tell you is that law, and the courts are not concerned about truth or justice. Instead the focus on process.
So Mr. Willingham may very well be innocent, but justices like Scalia could care less because he (and every other death row inmate) has had a fair chance at proving their innocence during the initial trial.
The other interesting quote in this story comes from Kent Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a group that supports the death penalty. He notes that no one that supports capital punishment will give the findings of this court of inquiry any credibility. In order words, don't try to confuse these folks with the facts, their minds are already made up.