THE LENGTHS RICK PERRY WILL GO…. As John Cole noted this morning, it’s a story that “reads like a Grisham novel — allegations of murder and arson, the execution of an innocent man, corrupt politicos.”

The story is the ongoing scandal in Texas. The state, by all appearances, executed an innocent man five years ago when it put Cameron Todd Willingham to death. When Willingham was convicted, prosecutors relied heavily on an “expert” that testified about the origins of a fire that killed Willingham’s daughters. The problem, we now know, is that the “expert” apparently didn’t know what he was talking about.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission, created to consider the competence of those who offer forensic testimony, hired Dr. Craig Beyler, an actual arson expert, to consider the evidence and report on his findings. He was scheduled to discuss what he found on Oct. 2.

But Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who was governor when the state killed Willingham, was apparently afraid of what the truth might show. In the 11th hour, Perry fired some of the Forensic Science Commission’s members, ensuring that the panel couldn’t hold a meeting to discuss the case.

Publius explained this morning that Perry is still at it.

He’s now removed a fourth member of the Texas commission responsible for investigating whether Texas (and Perry) executed an innocent man. It’s whitewashing at its worst. […]

What’s amazing is not so much that Perry replaced the panel members, but that he felt secure enough to be so brazenly corrupt about it…. [H]is motive is fairly clear. Perry contributed to the execution of an innocent person. And the formal recognition that Texas executed an innocent man would trigger a massive political earthquake — one that would clarify to an inattentive public the utter barbarity and immorality of Texas’s criminal justice system.

So yes, I can understand Perry’s motives. But it doesn’t change the fact that he is acting in a profoundly immoral way. The whole thing reminds me of a banana republic dictator clumsily covering up his crimes.

The governor’s office is also reportedly leaning on officials, hoping to dictate the direction of the investigation.

It’s a genuine disgrace and an embarrassment to the country.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.