Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ellis: DA used forensic chairmanship to 'seize power,' 'thwart the will' of the commission, 'hide' its work from the public, increase 'bureaucratic bloat,' and 'slow its impressive progress to a crawl.' Otherwise he's doing great

State Sen. Rodney Ellis sent out a press release yesterday asking his fellow senators to reject Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley's nomination as chair of the Forensic Science Commission. 
Failure of leadership at Texas Forensic Science Commission Raises Concerns
(Austin, Texas)//Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today urged the Texas Senate to reject the nomination of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley for the remainder of his term as Chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.  The Senate Nominations committee voted 4-2 to send Mr. Bradley's nomination for consideration by the full Senate.
"The Legislature created the Forensic Science Commission to ensure we have forensic evidence we can trust in our courtrooms --in order to increase public safety and the public faith in justice system," said Senator Ellis.  "Unfortunately, since Mr. Bradley has taken the reins, rather than move the commission forward to look into allegations, find the truth, and repair problems in our broken justice system; the Commission has invested most of its time and energy finding ways to avoid looking into problems and looking for loopholes to block the commission from doing what it was created to do."
In 2005, the Legislature created the Texas Forensic Science Commission to restore public faith in forensic evidence following the discovery that a series of serious errors called into question evidence in hundreds of cases across the state.  The commission is yet to complete a single investigation.  In 2009, just as the Commission was poised to begin completing its first investigation -- a review of the evidence used to convict and sentence to death Todd Willingham -- Mr. Bradley was appointed Chair of the Commission. 
The Commission is still yet to complete any investigation.
After boasting that he knew nothing about the Commission, Mr. Bradley's first move was to unilaterally cancel that meeting, stunning the public and policymakers, as well as his fellow Commission members.  According to press reports, Mr. Bradley then ordered all Commissioners to delete their Commission-related emails, and declared that he wouldn’t let the Commission meet until he had time to learn more about it.  Mr. Bradley displayed a shocking lack of objectivity in his work by declaring to the press that “Willingham is a guilty monster,”  a clearly inappropriate statement  from the Chair of a state Commission tasked to provide independent, expert investigations of allegations of forensic negligence or misconduct.
"We wanted independent experts to form a lean, efficient, and non-paid publicly review allegations of problems, investigate them, and report to the public about what it had found so that the public and thus all jurors could regain faith in forensic evidence – and thus convict the guilty and not convict the innocent," Ellis said.  "Sadly, Mr. Bradley has used his position to seize power over and thwart the will of the expert Commission, hide the Commission’s work from public view, greatly increase the Commission’s bureaucratic bloat, slow its previously impressive progress to a crawl, and otherwise prevent the Commission from accomplishing the legislature’s intent."
That pretty much sums it up.

Mr. Bradley may have a problem. If the Democrats all stick together, they theoretically have enough votes to sever his nomination and block it from coming to the Senate floor because of the 2/3 rule. And it wouldn't surprise me if some Senate Republicans agreed that Mr. Bradley's agenda-driven approach and bellicose comportment, on full display at the Nominations Committee, was a poor fit for a panel full of scientists charged with objectively evaluating forensic questions. (Last session, one of Governor Perry's appointees to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Shanda Perkins, was scuttled on a bipartisan 27-4 vote, with some senators who'd voted for her in committee voting against her on the floor.)

I'd like to see Bradley's nomination rejected outright, but even if he stays on the Commission, the Lege should change the law to let commissioners select their own chair. There's an opportunity this session, either way, for the Forensic Science Commission to be reinvigorated with leadership that actually cares about accomplishing the agency's mission instead of thwarting it. Rejecting John Bradley's nomination would be a terrific first step toward that goal.

RELATED: See Grits arguments against Bradley's nomination and coverage of the hearing.


Robert Langham said...

Our dearest thanks to Governor Perry for appointing this clown.

Hook Em Horns said...

Rodney Ellis nailed this. We'll see though. I am not holding my breath!

Anonymous said...

No doubt Senator Ellis nailed this. But I'll stand by my prediction of party line confirmation. I'll be glad if I'm proved wrong, and if somebody'll send me a crow sandwich, I'll try to eat it!

Charles in Tulia

Hook Em Horns said...

I agree with you Charles. Grits is fond of saying "never say never" so I will say it's improbable that Herr Bradley will not be reappointed to his coveted post.

This cover-up of the murder of Willingham is on the hands of all of these people, collectively, who will decide this matter.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the greatest reason for rejecting John Bradley -- he lied.

On 02/28/2011, John Bradley told the Senate Committee on Nominations that there were only 2 pending complaints for investigation by the Forensic Science Commission when he was appointed to the Chair -- the Willingham case and the Moon case.

There were in fact 3 complaints. ( cf. Senate Committee on Criminal Justice versus John Bradley, 11/10/2009, approximately 50 minutes into the meeting, http://www.senate.state.tx.us/avarchive/ramav.php?ram=00004541 )

Not mentioned by John Bradley was the anonymous complaint 09-15 submitted to the FSC on 3/16/2009, and accepted for investigation by the FSC in May 2009.

(The third complaint accepted by the FSC mentioned by Mr. Bradley was in reference to the complaint against the Austin Police Department from July 2010.)

Mr. Bradley also stated that the FSC was not to interpret the rule of law as "anything they want at anytime". However, this interpretation was apparently not a concern whey they abated investigation of complaint 09-15 (18 months after receiving the complaint) pending the disposition of a single, unrelated civil proceeding. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedures 38.01 does not list "abatement" as a legal, or appropriate, action for a FSC investigation into a complaint of scientific misconduct. No other complaints have had such postponement (e.g. investigation of the Willingham case was not abated in light of Judge Baird's Court of Inquiry in Austin.)

One can speculate that anonymous complaint 09-15 was not mentioned by Mr. Bradley because it was not submitted to the FSC by the Innocence Project, a corporation/conflict of interest/scapegoat argument used by Mr. Bradley for muddying of an investigation poised against Senator Ellis (and Innocence Project Board Chair).

Complaint 09-15 was submitted by a group of forensic analysts from inside the crime lab in question -- arguably, the best witnesses of scientific misconduct.

The concerns of the forensic analysts have yet to be addressed.

The problems within the crime lab have yet to be rectified.


David RD said...

Mr Ellis - thank you!! You nailed this just right. Isn't it strange that Mr. Bradley used almost the exact same words to describe Willingham and Mr. Perry used to a reporter?? “Willingham is a guilty monster,” - hmmm, makes you wonder where he's getting his instructions from? It sure looks like it's from that dude know as The Gov in that $10,000 a month - or is it $12,000 with the extras - rental mansion? Take the man at his word - "i don't know anything about it". The only thing he knows about it is what Perry tells him.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope the Senate will do the right thing and boot Bradley. Anyone who knows of the pain and suffering Bradley and his good ole boys have needlessly inflicted on Williamson County people (innocent) all in the sake of appearing "tough on crime" know he isn't fit to hold any position of power. Bradley should be looked at under a microscope. Everything he has touched or influenced should be questioned. Getting to know Bradley has been a rude awakening for someone who once believed in the system.

By allowing Bradley to continue as chairman of this committee is reinforcing in Bradley's mind that he is just and he is righteous. He is neither.