hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Monday, August 31, 2009
Via Yglesias, Everyone should read the New Yorker article by David Grann, about the almost certain innocence of Cameron Willingham, executed for arson-murder in 2004. The arson investigator created a lot of stylized "facts" "proving" arson, which turned out not to be true.



However, the arson detective, though he contributed to executing an innocent man, wasn't evil. He believed that he was in posession of the truth. The article was saddening, and angering, but what it ultimately drove home to to me is the importance of doing your best, trying to be as competent and as good as you can, at all levels of society.

. . .Willingham’s mother and father began to cry. “Don’t be sad, Momma,” Willingham said. “In fifty-five minutes, I’m a free man. I’m going home to see my kids.” Earlier, he had confessed to his parents that there was one thing about the day of the fire he had lied about. He said that he had never actually crawled into the children’s room. “I just didn’t want people to think I was a coward,” he said. Hurst [authentic fire expert who reviewed Willingham's case, and proved his innocence] told me, “People who have never been in a fire don’t understand why those who survive often can’t rescue the victims. They have no concept of what a fire is like.” . . .

. . .After his death, his parents were allowed to touch his face for the first time in more than a decade. Later, at Willingham’s request, they cremated his body and secretly spread some of his ashes over his children’s graves. He had told his parents, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.” . . .

. . .Just before Willingham received the lethal injection, he was asked if he had any last words. He said, “The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God’s dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne.”

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