Friday, November 06, 2009

Bradley seeks closed meetings, records for Forensic Science Commission

I know, gentle readers, you will all be shocked to learn what Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley thinks Forensic Science Commission investigations should be secret and closed to the public. That suggestion tops the list of things he'll propose next week to the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, according to an informative article by Mary Alice Robbins at Texas Lawyer. Bradley suggests:
  • Making investigations secret and meetings about them closed.
  • Re-education of commissioners: "Bradley says that when people act as investigators and judges, they typically should have some background in that work. Most members of the commission don’t do investigative work and need training, he says."
  • Lengthening terms for commissioners. (No word why the governor couldn't just reappoint if continuity is so important.)
  • Creating new rules and procedures for the commission (no detail).
  • "Clarifying" whether the commission has authority to investigate the Willingham case. (He seems unwilling to take his former boss Sen. John Whitmire's word for it.)
Hardly anyone attends FSC meetings - at the last one in Houston not a single media member showed up, including this blogger - so the secrecy request can only be a reaction the Willingham uproar, which was raised to a national issue with Bradley's abrupt appointment by Governor Perry to chair the FSC and his subsequent decision to cancel all commission activities. What's more, Bradley thinks the public shouldn't get to know what taxpayers bought for $30K from the expert hired to advise the commission - a proposition that seems like a really big stretch, to me, anway.

On the bright side:
Bradley says, “I do plan to recommend that the commission move forward and complete a report in the Willingham case. I think it’s in the best interest of the public to have the report come out.”
Don't look for that to happen before the March Governor's primary, though, and maybe not until after next year's general election, if I had to guess. What's more, I'd be willing to bet it won't look much like the version that was released by Dr. Beyler. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but this appears to be a straight up case of politics trumping science.

E pur si muove

UPDATE (11/8): Check out a lengthy profile of John Bradley from the Austin Statesman.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am Rage's lack of surprise.

doran said...

So, Mr. Bradley wants to establish re-education camps in Texas???

How droll.

Anonymous said...

Grits, why all the whining? The Beyler report is already out, though I bet 99% of your readers are too lazy to read it. It says that a finding of arson cannot be supported. Which, as Dr. Beyler himself recently clarified, means that arson cannot be ruled out either. Current "science" would result in a finding of Undetermined cause of fire. So, if the Willingham case were tried today, he probably wouldn't end up on Death Row, but it doesn't necessarily follow that he would be found innocent. The most the FSC can do is validate Beyler's finding of Undetermined cause. It doesn't matter who the chairman is or when they reconvene.

Boyness said...

Of course he wants it all in SECRET. Rick Perry is Texas most secretive Governor.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:05, your thinking error is to presume the Wilingham case is the only one that exists or that arson is the only forensic science which needs re-evaluating. If that were true, you'd have a strong point. But the Willingham case isn't the only fish in the sea. This would derail not only the Willingham investigation but the one related to Brandon Moon's case and all future analyses of bad forensics. Bradley and the Governor want all that out of sight and out of mind.

Anonymous said...

I've mentioned something before in comments here but I keep being reminded of it. There was a case, I think it was around 1906 in Chattanooga, TN where a young black man was accused of raping a white woman. In a sham of a trial he was convicted and sentenced to death. The supreme court intervened and ordered his execution stayed. A mob broke him out of jail, with the sheriff's complicity, and lynched him. In 2000 he was exonerated by the court. Even though it was clear he was probably innocent at the time he was lynched it took almost 100 years for the system to acknowledge his innocence.

The reason I keep being reminded of that case is that I keep seeing things on here that remind me that in the last 100 years people have not changed. I have seen people post things about people accused of crimes that make me think they would not hesitate tpo participate in a lynch mob it given the chance.

In this Willingham case there are arguments on both sides. Its clear that the case needs to be looked at carefully. Anon 5:05 seems to think a standard of "maybe he was guilty, maybe he wasn't" is an exceptable standard by which to execute someone in Texas. The point is there was a problem with this case and it seems that certain public officials want to cover that up. These officials are no different than the judge who allowed the young man in the 1906 case to be convicted without a fair trial and the sheriff who allowed the mob to remove him from the jail and lynch him. As far as I can see, our society has not progressed at all in the area of criminal justice in the last 100 years. I guess you could argue that the fact that we don't allow lynch mobs any more is progress.............but if an innocent person is killed, does it really matter if the state does it or a mob does it?

Anonymous said...

Heck, it appears that even family members of crime victims don't want prosecutors to push too hard to find the people responsible for the crimes against their families.

Instead of being up in arms that the Travis County DA is limiting their search of potential matches for the DNA found in the Yogurt Shop Case, the families are apparently supportive. Following the evidence wherever it might lead and, potentially, actually finding the murderer(s) is less important to the families of crime victims that preserving the case against the men Travis County originally tried.

If even the families of the victims don't want justice done and killers found, I don't know what hope there is for reforming anything. There's likely a murderer running free as we speak and everybody involved in the case thinks that's perfectly okay.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:10, you raise a good issue. A lot of these tough, law and order prosecutors and those who support them don't realize, I guess, that when they put the wrong person in jail, the real criminal is still out there. A very good example is the infamous Kerry Max Cook case in Smith County. Jack Skeen is now a district judge who gets off on putting as many people away for as long as he can. He was not the original DA on the Cook case but he was the DA on the retrials. Despite his denials, his office was involved in withholding evidence in the case. He had in his hands the evidence to show Cook was innocent and he and everyone else knew the real killer was Mayfield. Yet, when faced with the prospect of losing a retrial because of DNA evidence he offered Cook an unprecedented deal to plead no contest for time served on a capital murder case. Skeen pretends to be so tough on crime yet he let a man who committed a brutal murder go free just because he didn't want to admit he was prosecuting the wrong person. Now, this man is a district judge. Unfortunately, there are others like him who pretend to be tough on crime, yet knowingly allow dangerous criminals to go free just because their egos and political ambitions won't let them admit they might be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Read the profile this morning. Can anyone document Bradley ever putting an innocent man in prison, knowingly?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know of any DNA exonerations in cases from Bradley's watch, but he opposed DNA testing in the Michael Morton case against the wishes of the victim's next of kin and he supports requiring destruction of DNA evidence in plea bargains to avoid future innocence claims.

Anonymous said...

Grits--cant wait to hear your comments about Rick Casey's column in today's Houston Chronicle. Interesting food for thought!

Duke said...

Note to Anonymous:
I've not read all of your remarks but wanted to pop in with a name, Leo Frank, and a link to the case:
http://www.pbs.org/thepeoplevleofrank/

I think this is the case you were thinking about. I saw it on PBS last week and was reminded of Perry (and Bradley).