Hill Country gun instructor Crockett Keller has become Texas’ latest racist heard ’round the country. “Attention. Be a victor not a victim,” begins his advert for concealed handgun courses before taking an abrupt racist, xenophobic turn – a rant that’s now become a YouTube sensation. “If you are a socialist liberal and/or voted for the current campaigner in chief” — we’re honestly a little surprised here he didn’t go with Barack Hussein Obama — “please do not take this class. You have already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as required under the law. Also if you are non-Christian Arab and Moslem” — we assume he meant Muslim — “I will not teach you the class. Once again, with no shame, I am Crockett Keller.”
Just in case the ad wasn’t clear enough, Keller this weekend displayed a sign over his table at the Texas Gun and Knife Show at the Gillespie County reading: “If you are Muslim and will not pledge allegiance to the United States of America, I will not sell you any firearm or accessory.”
“We get so much of this stuff. …This is just one more bigoted remark, and the worst thing I guess is that these types of remarks just continue to divide our communities,” said Mustafaa Carroll, executive director of the Texas Council on American-Islamic Relations. The Texas Department of Public Safety has said it’s now investigating whether to revoke or suspend Keller’s license to give concealed handgun classes. “If he won’t train Muslims and he has these very harsh feelings toward Muslims, what’s he telling the people he’s training?” Carroll said, adding that he hopes the state takes quick action to revoke Keller’s instructor license. “Our answer is, get to know us, and don’t just take this slander and rhetoric as gospel,” said Carroll. “We have to continue talking to each other, that’s the only way things progress.” Inshallah.
Since its creation, the Texas Forensic Science Commission has fought to provide meaningful oversight with one arm tied behind its back. The inquiry into one of the state’s most contentious executions, the death of Cameron Todd Willingham, sat stalled through official channels for years, and this summer Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott effectively quashed the commission’s investigation into the evidence used to convict Willingham.
Thankfully, some progress has managed to squeak through. This week, the commission approved new recommendations creating an extensive review program for all of Texas’ arson cases, along with revamped measures to improve future arson investigations. The State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Innocence Project of Texas will now start combing through the cases to determine whether faulty science has wrongfully put anyone behind bars.
The recommendations, and the willingness of the State Fire Marshal’s Office to examine past arson cases, may be the sole bright spot in a heated controversy that has dragged on for years. Before Willingham’s execution in 2004 for the arson-murder that claimed his three daughters, fire-science experts had already begun to seriously question the forensic evidence used to convict him. Despite those growing questions, Governor Rick Perry refused to issue a 30-day stay and Willingham’s execution marched forward. Since then, roughly a dozen arson experts have reviewed the case, calling the arson investigation seriously flawed and saying evidence indicates the fire was accidental.
Soon after the state executed Willingham, the Innocence Project lodged a formal complaint over the case with the Forensic Science Commission, whose investigation sputtered along until last year. Days before the commission was set to finally dig into the case in 2009, Perry, eying a primary fight for the governorship, shuffled the board, removing key FSC members and appointed Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley as chair, an ally who immediately put the Willingham investigation on hold.
Once the commission finally began hearing testimony from fire-science experts last spring, Bradley, who while still chair of the commission called Willingham was a “guilty monster”, took his obstructionism to a new level, questioning his own commission’s authority to even touch the case, asking the Attorney General to weigh in. By summer, Abbott’s ruling stopped had quietly stopped the investigation.
Along with Abbott’s ruling essentially neutering any future FSC inquiry (the commission may review old cases, provided it doesn’t actually use any old forensic evidence to do so), the commission’s entering its next chapter with a slate of new appointees, including former Bexar County Chief Medical Examiner Vincent Di Maio and the reappointment of Tarrant County medical examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani to chair the commission, picked this year after the state Senate refused to confirm Bradley back to the post. Though it now seems the commission will never officially answer the all-important question of whether the state executed an innocent man, maybe the new recommendations rolled out this week will help keep it from ever happening in the future.
Photo by Michael Barajas
When we last spoke with Libyan dissident-turned chair of UTSA’s political science department Mansour El-Kikhia in early September, he was on the eve of a trip back to Benghazi, the home he fled over 30 years ago fearing for his life. A prominent member of the Libyan opposition, El-Kikhia has fanned the flames of dissent from afar for decades, speaking out against the regime of Muammar El-Qaddafi, writing extensively about the Libyan dictator in newspaper columns, academic papers, and even books challenging the madman of Libya. And as the Libyan uprising grew, spreading across his country, El-Kikhia became a trusted advisor to the opposition, in close contact with members of the opposition’s transnational council.
Now, after Qaddafi’s death, El-Kikhia is continuing to help steer the country, and is even considering a run for president of Libya once the nation holds its first democratic elections. “Everything’s on the table now as far as I’m concerned,” he said this week. “My major concern is to have someone there that can do the job right. If I feel I need to participate in a presidential bid, I’ll do that.”
On his trip back to Libya in September, his second since the crumbling of the Qaddafi regime, El-Kikhia was followed by an Australian Broadcasting Corporation film crew documenting his return home. The segment, which aired last week, shows El-Kikhia reuniting with friends and family in Libya, including his 26-year-old nephew, Salim, who was imprisoned and tortured for seven months in a squalid Tripoli prison, El-Kikhia said — rebel forces liberated the prison in August.
El-Kikhia said he hopes to guide Libya through the next eight months, the time he said it could take to set up a legitimate election. “I’ve told [the opposition] they need to put away the nepotism and cronyism they’ve grown up with. I’ve told them to think institutionally, that the idea that we worship individuals is a mistake and instead we should worship institutions that are durable, democratic, and free,” he said. “This only can be done through a bill of rights, something that guarantees freedom for all Libyans, regardless of gender, color, whatever it is.” •
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