Thursday, May 26, 2011

John Bradley out as forensic science chair

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram  reports on a coming milestone that marks a dramatic snub to Governor Rick Perry's efforts to politicize Forensic Science Commission ("Texas Forensic Science Commission Chairman will be out of a job next week," May 25):
The controversial chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission will be out of the job next week.
The state Senate Nominations Committee has ended its work for this session without voting on Gov. Rick Perry's appointment in 2009 of John Bradley to chair the commission.

Bradley's term ends when the legislative session concludes Monday.

Perry appointed Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney, to lead the commission just days before it was to hear a report critical of the original investigation of arson evidence in a Death Row case from Corsicana.

The inmate, Cameron Todd Willingham, was executed in 2004. Some arson scientists say that the evidence suggests that the blaze that killed his children was an accident, not arson, and that, therefore, he was wrongly executed.

Bradley slowed down the panel's work and pushed members to find no misconduct by fire investigators.
Though the commission eventually released a report critical of the poor, unscientific nature of the arson investigators' work in the Willingham case, Bradley did succeed in what was widely considered the Governor's main goal in appointing him: Delaying any final outcome until after the 2010 gubernatorial election. Now, with the Senate's unexpected dismissal of the FSC chairman, presumably Mr. Bradley can hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner and  re-focus his efforts on the day to day tasks of Williamson County District Attorney.

Grits finds it remarkable that Bradley and his brother David, a member of the State Board of Education, have together lately served as twin spearpoints in right-wing attacks on science in Texas. That's quite a family niche! John Bradley has spent the last year and a half seeking to thwart investigation into flawed arson science, and his brother leads the anti-science crusade (particularly promoting alternative, religious based theories to evolution) on the SBOE. In both cases, the result was overreach. The SBOE's actions caused a voter backlash in last year's primaries against religious conservatives on the board, and JB's antics earned him bipartisan opposition in the Texas Senate. Those developments at least provide some basis for hope that Texans won't support an extremist anti-science agenda, even if they agree with other tenets of grassroots conservative ideology.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

The official website for the commission indicates that his appointment expires in September. What gives?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

He was appointed to a two-year term but since he wasn't confirmed by the Senate, he won't continue to be chair after session ends.

Anonymous said...

Occasionally, the legislature does something good.

Anonymous said...

Now if Perry could only take back his appointment of Jack Skeen to the 241st District Court. Skeen should have had a chance to be an excellent plaintiff attourney.

Anonymous said...

Occasionally, the legislature does something good.

Nah, it's almost always their inaction, as in this case, that is good.


Anonymous said...


She wrote on September 4, 2009:

Dear Governor Perry,

I am writing to indicate my support for Samuel Bassett, Chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Mr. Bassett has provided dedicated leadership to the Commission during his two terms and I recommend his reappointment under the strongest possible terms.

Once the Commission was fully funded in 2007, it’s members worked tirelessly to develop reporting policies and procedures, a website for dissemination of information and review complaints under Mr. Bassett’s leadership. The Commission’s lack of funding or administrative support led to a backlog of complaints that Mr. Bassett inherited when he assumed the role of Chair. The Commission worked quickly to review and make decisions on these once the reporting infrastructure was in place. Of the almost thirty complaints received to date, the Commission has identified only three of potential merit, and these are currently under investigation.

One of the Commission’s ongoing concerns relates to the Open Records Act, and the necessity to release complaints and investigative information during the course of an investigation. It would be my position that these records should be closed until the Commission completes an investigation and makes a final determination. Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office inform the Commission indicate that despite the sensitive nature of the complaints and the ethical issues associated with the investigative process, there is no statutory authority for an exception.

The Commission’s work is critical, particularly in light of the recent National Academy of Sciences report that was released in February of this year. Given the delays establishing funding and filling open positions on the Commission until 2007, I support Mr. Bassett’s reappointment. Doing so will ensure a measure of stability to the Commission during a time of great scrutiny.
-Dr. Sarah Kerrigan

(reposted from "Forensic panelists urged Perry against a shakeup" -, Oct. 6, 2009)

Anonymous said...

10:11, I totally agree about Jack Skeen's appointment. However, I don't believe he could have made it as any kind of attorney in the private sector. To do so would require at least some knowledge of the law, which he does not have. Skeen has lived off the taxpayers for more than 30 years. I doubt, at this point, he is capable of earning a living on his own.