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Whattha? Judge Charlie Baird Rebuked by Appeals Court in Willingham Case

You’ll remember Judge Charlie Baird – we’ve written about him before:  Judge Baird was the man who took on the Tim Cole matter when others on the bench would not, and we tipped our hat to him for it (read “Judge Charlie Baird May Exonerate a Dead Man and Give Justice to Tim Cole”).  Judge Baird also presided over the case where Austin DA Stephanie McFarland had kept back an expert’s padded resume from the defense, bad acts by the prosecution – details found in our June 2010 post, if you’re interested. 

Now, Judge Charlie Baird is in the news again — and it’s not good.  Seems he has had his papers graded by the 3d Court of Appeals and they’ve ruled that he overstepped his bounds (in legal parlance, “abused his discretion”) when he did not step aside and recuse himself in the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation.  What?

Yepper.  Seems that the appellate court decided that the arguments of Navarro County District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson were sound – and Thompson was arguing that Judge Baird should not have presided over the investigation into whether or not Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed because (1) Baird is a known opponent of the death penalty and (2) an apparent conflict with his previous ruling in 1995, where Judge Baird as a member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals voted to uphold Willingham’s conviction. 

Here’s the reality:  Judge Baird, setting in Travis County on a district court bench, did grant a motion brought before him to investigate whether or not the State of Texas executed an innocent man.  Judge Baird is now leaving the bench: he’s going into private practice in a matter of days, and Karen Sage will take the oath of office for that bench.  He’s out of it. 

What will happen to the Willingham Family’s attempts to clear the name of Cameron Todd Willingham?  It’s not clear right now.  It’s pretty sure that Willingham did not kill his kids. It’s pretty clear that Willingham was an innocent man, executed by the State of Texas.  And, it’s pretty certain that Judge Charlie Baird is a man of character and conviction, who seeks to do the right thing.

Judge Baird undertook the task of grading his own papers when he granted the Willingham Family motion to investigate the death of Cameron Todd Willingham.  You’d think he would get some respect for it. 

He’s got it here, folks.

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