The Fort Worth Star Telegram has a preview story this morning about the hearing, quoting Sen. John Whitmire saying the FSC could emerge from this controversy stronger and more effective than ever. I hope so. At the same time, Bradley is already making obfucscatory claims that make me think his agenda is to conceal the truth and avoid debates over faulty forensics instead of encouraging reform. For example, he told Texas Lawyer recently:
“It’s not a good idea to conduct an investigation in a public forum,” Bradley says.
Other agencies that have an investigative function, including those in law enforcement, are protected from the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act during their deliberations, Bradley says. When investigations are conducted in public, it is difficult to protect them from outside influences, he says. ...
“The commission’s work is focused on investigating and then deliberating on allegations of negligence and misconduct in the forensic science field,” Bradley says.
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.
Bradley is confusing the FSC with agencies that investigate individuals on allegations of negligence or misconduct. But this is a horse of a different color. Bottom line: The Forensic Science Commission is not a regulatory agency and has no power to punish anyone. Nobody's due process rights are implicated the way they are, say, when a police officer is investigated by Internal Affairs. The FSC exists to investigate the validity of forensic science and lab practices in Texas and encourage public debate, not to indict or accuse individual actors. It is weak by design, largely because Governor Perry opposed giving it any real power.
Mr. Bradley's excuses for seeking secrecy at the FSC don't hold water. Agencies like the Judicial Conduct Commission that evaluate specific allegations against individuals and have authority to punish them may justifiably maintain secrecy throughout their investigation, but the FSC possesses none of those types of powers. It's simply not a valid comparison.
Investigating people may justify secrecy. Investigating science requires openness.
RELATED: See a Dallas News editorial outlining their hopes for today's hearing.
UPDATE: I'll write up today's hearing tomorrow morning, but in the meantime here's some of the initial MSM and blog coverage:
- CNN: Texas execution probe won't be 'hijacked," new chairman says
- Dallas News: New head of Forensic Science Commission says he'll protect panel's integrity
- Texas Tribune: Forensic Science chairmen face off
- TPM Muckraker: Perry appointee in no rush to wade back into Willingham case
- Dallas Observer: In which Texas Forensic Science Commission chair calls out those with "agendas"
- The Contrarian: The Willingham Hearing
- Burnt Orange Report: John Bradley to serve as Rick Perry's puppet on Texas Forensic Science Commission
- Houston Chronicle, R.G. Ratcliffe: Forensic panel's new chief says he's not pawn, and Rick Casey: New clues for forensic panel.
- Austin Statesman: Forensic comish needs rules
- See coverage from KXAN Austin.
- Daily Texan: Senate grills forensic science chair
- Dallas News Trailblazers blog: See competing contradictory written statements from Bradley and Sam Bassett