EDITORIAL: Texas Fire Marshal Lauded for Candidness

Aug. 08--There's nothing really extraordinary about the response of Texas Fire Marshal Chris Connealy to requests for official records by the Innocence Project of Texas. He's basically agreeing to make public documents available to the public.

Still, it's refreshing to see a high-ranking public official say, without prodding or threat of lawsuit, "Why not? We serve the public. And I want the public to have confidence in the criminal justice system."

Connealy's office has already turned over 24 case files from 2002 to 2004 to the Innocence Project. Next he will let the group review all his cases up to this year.

And mind you, this could make further news. The Innocence Project investigates inmates or old cases where someone may have been unjustly convicted of a crime. Specifically, it is interested in the case of Cameron Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for killing his three daughters in a 1991 house fire in Corsicana.

Some people think Willingham was wrongly convicted because fire investigators incorrectly called the blaze arson rather than an accident. Others firmly believe Willingham was guilty as charged.

That dispute matters. Willingham was put to death by the state, and Texans must know as many facts about this case as possible to help them decide whether justice was upheld or distorted. It makes the state fire marshal's openness here all the more compelling.

Texas needs more public officials from city halls to the state capital who have this attitude. If a document is a matter of public record, it should be made available -- promptly -- to anyone who wants to see it.

That's not being nice to the person who requests it, it's following state law. Taxpayers are always served best when they get the most information as soon as possible.

The state fire marshal gets this. Good for him. It's unacceptable that other public officials don't.

Copyright 2014 - The Beaumont Enterprise, Texas

Loading