Ernest Willis has one vice left: smoking. He smokes in his purple Lincoln Town Car, driving around Midland. He smokes while chatting with his neighbor in his front yard. He smokes at the kitchen table in his condo, which he shares with his son Shawn, who sells cars at a dealership in Odessa. Willis spends a lot of time in the condo. He likes to get up early, usually about six-thirty, and make a pot of coffee. Then he smokes a cigarette and turns on the news.
You’re one of the only people to know what it’s like to be an innocent man on death row, but everybody else thinks you’re guilty. What did that feel like to you? When you had those two days left—we’re trying to put ourselves in the mind of [Cameron Todd Willingham] and what he was going through. What did that feel like?
Ken Starr became a household name in the late nineties, when his Starr Report led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Today the 64-year-old is the fourteenth president of Baylor University, in Waco, and he’s fully immersed in furthering the Christian mission of the private college and finding additional ways to provide scholarships for deserving students.
ON THE SATURDAY BEFORE HALLOWEEN, Edward Wernecke stood in his kitchen, thumbing through a stack of file folders filled with photocopies and Internet printouts of medical articles. The solemn 53-year-old rancher was indifferent to the flies that buzzed around the room and landed once in a while on his face and white Resistol. Edward’s wife, 37-year-old Michele, stood nearby.
UPDATE:The Department of Justice has dropped its investigation of former attorney general Alberto Gonzales regarding the firings of nine U.S. attorneys on political grounds.—July 22, 2010
It was a scene suspended between a Kafka nightmare and the lunacy of Lewis Carroll, a bizarre conclusion to the long national tragedy that began with the raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in February 1993. Bill Johnston, the defendant who stood before a black-robed judge in a St. Louis courtroom awaiting sentencing, was charged, in effect, with concealing evidence of his knowledge of the FBI’s use of pyrotechnic weapons in its final assault on the compound. The former assistant U.S.
Brent “Coondog” Coon, the Beaumont- and Houston-based plaintiff’s attorney who won millions from BP for his client Eva Rowe after her parents were killed in a plant explosion in Texas City in 2005 (which I wrote about in “Eva vs. Goliath,” July 2007), is now representing clients in the recent rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana.
John Browne of Madingley, the once hailed and now semi-disgraced former chief of BP, could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had bothered to educate himself in the folkways of southeast Texas and neighboring Louisiana before purchasing the refinery that exploded to such devastating effect on March 23, 2005.
The innocuous white office building at the intersection of Fitzhugh and the Central Expressway in Dallas is an unlikely site for a battleground. Speeding between Ken’s Mufflers and the headquarters for Young Life, most drivers miss it entirely on most days. Saturdays, however, are different. Picketers line the sidewalk, proselytizing (“Finding God is like a great sale at the Gap”) and handing out pamphlets (Children—Things We Throw Away?).
The most infamous phone call in recent Texas history came on the afternoon of September 25, 2007, when, at 4:45, Ed Marty, the general counsel of the Court of Criminal Appeals, dialed Sharon Keller, the court’s presiding judge. Both were in Austin; he was at the courthouse and she had gone home earlier to meet a repairman. One hundred and forty miles away, at the Walls Unit, in Huntsville, Michael Richard (pronounced “Ree-shard”) sat in a cell adjacent to the execution chamber.