Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Road to Damascus: The Conversion of John Bradley?

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
-Voice of Jesus speaking to St. Paul on the road to Damascus, Acts 9:4, KJV

Just bizarre: Like Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus, Williamson County DA John Bradley claims to have suddenly seen the light after Michael Morton's DNA exoneration. He now plans to repent his sins and henceforth will walk the path of righteousness, we're asked to believe. Brandi Grissom at the Texas Tribune has a remarkable and lengthy story today featuring Bradley eating humble pie over the Michael Morton DNA exoneration. The article opens with the line, "John Bradley is a man evolving." I hope and pray that's true, but this "evolution" is also conveniently timed as the DA approaches a tough primary challenge.

In the Trib story, Bradley describes his former vision of the prosecutor's role literally as that of a "predator": “I always felt like I was swimming among sharks,” he said. “And you had to defend yourself, and you have to be the same predator back.” I've never seen a prosecutor openly compare their role to a "predator," usually aiming such inflammatory language toward their adversaries (as Bradley more comfortably does in the first half of the quote). But it's a revealing statement, nonetheless.

If Bradley-the-prosecutor cared little about building relations with the local defense bar, the story tells us, he certainly knew which relations to develop to advance his political career:
As then DA Ken Anderson's first assistant, "Bradley developed a close relationship with his boss. They co-wrote two law books. Under Anderson, he began working with lawmakers at the Capitol, just a 30-minute drive south of Georgetown. When Gov. Rick Perry appointed Anderson as a state judge in 2002 he also appointed Bradley to take over as district attorney."
So we've got a self-described "predator" who came to Williamson County from Houston with the mentality of a shark who treated the small pond full of perch and catfish in the defense bar essentially as prey while spending his spare time currying favor with officials in Williamson County and Austin. Largely thanks to those powerful patrons, particularly Judge Anderson and the Governor, until now Bradley has never faced a serious electoral challenge since Perry first appointed him. (He lost the only truly competitive race he's ever run, for the the Court of Criminal Appeals in the '90s.)

Like Ken Anderson's second chair Mike Davis, Bradley attempted to shift blame and focus for the Morton fiasco onto Judge Anderson, whose situation increasingly appears untenable. (I'm quite looking forward to reading his forthcoming deposition.) But Anderson's failings don't excuse Bradley's own decisions to fight disclosure of exculpatory evidence and DNA testing that eventually exonerated Mr. Morton. Grissom provides a detailed recital of Bradley's own role in this mess for which there's no one to blame but him:
In 2005, Morton began asking the state to test DNA evidence on a number of items, including a bloody blue bandana found near their home the day after the murder.

Bradley tenaciously fought the requests. In the press, he berated the idea that DNA would lead to some “mystery killer.” And he said Morton’s lawyers were “grasping at straws.” ...

Morton’s lawyers also asked Bradley, through public information requests, for investigative materials in the case. From the time of his conviction, Morton’s lawyers suspected that prosecutors had withheld key evidence that could have caused jurors to doubt his guilt. Bradley fought that request, too, arguing it would interfere with the DNA litigation.

Eventually, Bradley lost that fight and turned over the files. Reports from the sheriff’s department showed that in 1987 investigators had several clues that pointed to someone other than Morton as the killer. There was a transcript in which Morton’s mother-in-law told a sheriff’s deputy that the couple’s 3-year-old son saw a “monster” with a big mustache attack his mother — and the monster wasn’t his father. There were reports that Morton’s credit card had been used and a check had been cashed with her forged signature days after her death. Morton’s lawyers, though, had seen none of that information during his trial. ...

While the Willingham controversy continued in 2010, the Morton case was beginning to unravel. An appeals court ordered the prosecutor’s office to allow DNA testing on the bandana found near the murder scene. In June, the test results revealed that Christine Morton’s blood was mixed with the hair of a man who was not her husband. In August, a national DNA database search matched that DNA to a felon with a record in California....

But it wasn’t just the DNA.

The court in August also ordered the unsealing of a file that was supposed to contain all of the reports from the initial investigation of Morton’s murder. During a dispute in 1987 over evidence, the judge had ordered Anderson, the prosecutor, to provide him all of the investigator’s reports so that he could determine whether there was any information that could help Morton prove his innocence.

When that file was opened two decades later, Bradley and Morton’s lawyers found a paltry six pages of police reports.

Both Bradley and Morton’s lawyers knew that there were many more pages. Despite his order, the judge was not given the transcript that included the Mortons’ son’s description of the murder or the financial transactions that occurred after Morton’s death.

For the defense attorneys, it seemed to confirm their suspicions: the prosecutor’s office had withheld critical information so they could secure a conviction. For Bradley, the development was a shocking revelation that raised serious questions about his former boss and friend.

“I fully expected that that sealed file would contradict some pretty strong accusations,” Bradley said. “It didn’t.”
In September, Travis County investigators linked the DNA from the Morton bandana to DNA found on a hair at the scene of the 1988 murder of Debra Masters Baker. The man whose DNA was on those items during the 1980s lived only blocks away from Baker and about 12 miles away from the Morton’s home.

“It’s the kind of thing that happens only in Hollywood movies,” Bradley said. "I am still awed by the combination of circumstances that came together at the right time."
Corroborating reports of a closed-door shouting match between the two, Grissom writes: "Because of the continuing investigation, Bradley won’t say whether he believes [Judge Ken] Anderson knowingly hid exculpatory evidence. But, for now, he said, their personal relationship is gone. 'It saddens me, but that’s the facts,' he said."

For Grits, the supposed transformation in Bradley's thinking brings to mind not a Hollywood story but a biblical one: The Apostle Paul's miraculous conversion from persecutor of Christians to their champion. Your correspondent was quoted at the end of Grissom's article making that allusion: "Scott Henson, who writes the well-regarded criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast, said Bradley could demonstrate his changed perspective by joining with innocence advocates to promote reforms to the Texas justice system. 'He’s got a long record,' Henson said. 'And it will take more than a few words of humility to get everyone to believe that he’s had some road to Damascus moment.'"

Somewhat ironically, Bradley now says, "I consider Barry Scheck a good friend," so perhaps Barry can play Ananais to Bradley's St. Paul, causing the scales to fall from his eyes and leading him toward a path of righteousness. Any such optimism regarding Bradley's newly announced conversion, though, should for now remain measured. As Christ warned Saul on the road to Damascus, "it's hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

MORE: See the transcript from the Trib's Bradley interview.

AND MORE: From Wilco Watchdog. Also, from Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle, "Morton prosecutor wrote the book on crime." YET MORE: From Wilco Watchdog on John Bradley's "election transformation."

30 comments:

ckikerintulia said...

It's worth noting that Saul spent three years in the wilderness before becoming the the Christian St. Paul the apostle. Bradley's conversion would be more believable if he withdrew to the political wilderness for a time, and then began to live out his conversion. Rev. Charles

Lee said...

Bradley is to use the technical term "full of ####".

Also Grits, If you watch the video of the apology you will notice that Anderson only apologizes for the system's failures and not his own. The only two things he is truly sorry about is that he got caught and doesent have a really big broom and an even bigger rug.

Robert said...

I'm the last of the liberal Risters from Williamson county. And I comment on many Williamson county justice issues both from half a century's awareness of Williamson county government and from having been among the prey. I was eventually acquitted when I was accused of a misdemeanor I didn't commit, and my father (the commissioner, last Democrat from precinct 3) was found actually innocent when Anderson went after him and visiting Judge Blackwell wound up spending most of Dad's trial admonishing the special prosecutor.

One of the most important things to learn from Morton's experience (or my own, although what I went through just doesn't compare)is never, ever, ever to take a plea bargain for a crime you didn't commit. He didn't. If he had, we wouldn't be have this discussion now.

And if District Attorney Bradley is really sincere about his conversion experience (I'd be shocked if he is, though stranger things have happened), how about a moratorium on seeking the death penalty until he's absorbed his lessons? Or if there is a death penalty crime in the future, how about at least recusing himself and seeking a special prosecutor? I have a list in mind and I imagine the Innocence Project has some recommendations too. I suspect that disciplinary action for both Bradley and Anderson would be appropriate, but I don't know exactly how the Bar would go about that.

Thanks for all you do in your blog. I very much appreciate your part in making Williamson county a place where justice is done again.

Robert Rister

gravyrug said...

I'll believe Bradley's change of heart when he starts going through his own old cases to find innocent people he's prosecuted and set them free. Until that happens, he's paying lip service in order to hold onto power.

Anonymous said...

I believe in forgiveness and redemption. I've recently given those things some though in relationship to the death penalty. To our human understanding, there are those that seem beyond forgiveness...but, you see, the thing about God grace is that it is unlimited, and, through his grace, no one is beyond forgiveness. That includes John Bradley. We seem to have lost the concepts of forgiveness and redemption in the criminal justice system. Maybe this is the beginning of returning those concepts. It is really something to hear Bradley refer to Scheck as a friend after the obvious hostility he displayed towards him in his position with the Forensic Science Commission. So, I'm willing to cautiously give Mr. Bradley the benefit of the doubt and hope that he is sincere in his conversion. But, time will tell. Lets see if he lives out his conversion. He could lead the way in advocating serious reforms in the system, and people would listen to him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment jb. Don't you have some blogging to do over at the TDCAA site?

Anonymous said...

Bradley have anything better to do than blog on the TDCAA site? 7,505 posts? WOW!

Here is one of his latest. Mocking DNA?

JB
Member posted 10-26-11
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In the end, it was the dog walker?s accusers who stepped in it.

A Fairfax County jury deliberated for less than 20 minutes Tuesday before exonerating a Fairfax woman of failing to clean up after Baxter, the fluffy Westie-bichon frise mix she cares for.

Details.

[Imagine this will soon appear as a show on CSI. DNA will save the day.]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posts: 7505 | From: Williamson County, Texas | Registered: 01-25-01

Anonymous said...

I think the Paul analogy is perfect. Even though he "converted," Paul still denounced everything and everyone that he felt was a little bit different than how he wanted them to be--to the extent that I often think his teachings are outright un-Christian and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

I'd say that's about the kind of conversion we can expect from Bradley.

Rage

Les Brown said...

Every Saint has a past and every Sinner has a future. On Bradley, we'll see.

Plato

Anonymous said...

Bradley won't have time to prove himself as a DA. His exit from the political scene is coming soon. Adios Mo-Fo

dfisher said...

I agree with gravyrug...

If John Bradley has had a "come to Jesus" calling, then he needs to take another look at these cases.

In 2006 Sari Gomez was sentenced to life for the death of 2-yr-old Sandra Martinez. Bradley's office had at least three different autopsy reports, all from Travis Co. Chief ME Bayardo. One autopsy report declared death accidental, one a homicide and one (The defense copy) was edited to remove key a paragraph. All three autopsy reports were signed and dated the same day, as originals. When I request the autopsy report from Travis Co. just days after the conviction, Bradley filed an exception to seal one page of the autopsy report. This page was withheld from the jury and showed the child had a major skull fracture from an accidental fall in the bath tub, earlier the day she died. The Travis CO. ME's Office only produced one copy of the Sandra Martinez autopsy report, but two were introduced at trial, though they are not in the court file and the third copy I obtained from the defense attorney.

In August 2005 Adam Keith Perez was sentenced to 50 yrs for the death of his son. Perez did not live with the mother and his baby, had only been baby sitting for 15 minutes when his son had a seizure and died. The Travis Co. ME's office found the child died of a skull fracture. Bradley's office failed to disclose to the defense, that a family member admitted earlier to leaving the 10-month-old unattended on the couch and baby pushed himself up, and over the arm rest, landing on his head. Within days of Perez being forced to take a plea, Bradley claimed he destroyed all the autopsy slides, which would have proved Adam Perez was innocent.

In 2001 Brandon Threet was sentenced to 20 yrs for the death of Terence McArdle. Bradley prosecuted this case himself and where he had a video tape, which purported to show Threet kicking McArdle in the head; it didn't actually show the impact. The autopsy report also did not find any evidence Threet kicked McArdle in the head, but 2 different test at the hospital showed McArdle actually died of a preexisting brain aneurysm. Many years after the conviction the defendant learned Bradley had the trial judge order the defense attorney's not to mention the ruptured aneurysm at trial.

So if Bradley is telling us the truth, here are three cases he should review for actual innocence, but even though words mean things, they also mean nothing.

Lee said...

So, there are other sins of John Bradley...we need to keep a tally going. when the primary comes up hit him with every one of these so that he may deny his injustices, not just once, but over and over again.

Anonymous said...

As a defense attorney who has practiced in front of the John Bradley gang for the past ten years my suggestion would be to have Mr. Bradley come over to the dark side [as he sees it]. Let him know what it's like not to get discovery because the prosecutor is too chicken shit to tip his hand. Who knows, it might result in a few innocent men/women going
free. Now that he knows that "man" isn't always what he seems, he might be able to put his good sense to good use. It would be fitting punishment. It might actually redeem his soul.

rodsmith said...

my problem is this right here!

"During a dispute in 1987 over evidence, the judge had ordered Anderson, the prosecutor, to provide him all of the investigator’s reports so that he could determine whether there was any information that could help Morton prove his innocence.

When that file was opened two decades later, Bradley and Morton’s lawyers found a paltry six pages of police reports."

So where is the ARREST order for the prosecutor for his contempt of court charge! Sorry last time i looked if you are given an order by the court and dont obey judges tend to lock you up till you do! at least ANYONE other than a DA of course! and seesm to me that this is a charge that could stick even NOW since he has STILL not produced the documents!

Tawanda said...

To 11/18/2011 11:10:00 AM
I also believe in forgiveness, redemption and that God's grace is extended to all of us, including Bradley. I also believe in repentance which is an action word that involves a lot more than what we've seen from Bradley so far. John Bradley conceded to defeat in the Morton Case a little over a month ago. Up to that point Bradley has been pretty nasty to Mr. Morton and Mr. Morton's lawyers. Even after this concession, Bradley continued trying to protect Anderson and Davis for the misconduct in Mr. Morton's Case. Now we are supposed to believe Bradley is a changed man just because Bradley said so? He's still not being honest. For example, Bradley is still claiming his office has an open file policy and we are learning from the lawyers practicing in WilCo that this is not true.

My Grandmother (& Jesus) said you know a tree by the fruit it bears. A changed Bradley should be bearing new fruit. He would stop lying. He would tender his resignation because he has violated the trust of the people. A changed Bradley would acknowledge the people that he has hurt and this would include the taxpayers of Williamson County since Bradley's office spent thousands of tax dollars fighting Mr. Morton and his lawyers. And most importantly, if Bradley were a changed man, he would come completely clean and fight for the freedom of the innocent people HE has screwed.

Right now its looking like the only thing Bradley is sorry for is that his true nature and his misdeeds are being made public.

ckikerintulia said...

Saul is not the only biblical character of relevance in the Bradley case. I think of a little Vacation Bible School ditty about Zaccheus. Of course the story is that Zaccheus was a tax collector collaborator with the Roman occupiers. (The Romans were the
1%ers. Everyone else were 99%ers.) He was small of stature, and climbed up in a tree to see Jesus as he passed that way. Jesus called him down out of the tree, and invited himself to Zaccheus' house for dinner. Zaccheus became a convert, and promised to make restitution, fourfold, to anyone whom he had defrauded.

If Bradley is truly repentant, he needs to right all the injustices of his past, as much as is humanly possible. Just onefold would do for Bradley, although Zaccheus promised fourfold restitution.

Rev. Charles

ckikerintulia said...

The Vacation Bible School ditty goes like this:

Zaccheus was a wee little man,
A wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree,
The Savior for to see.
And when the Savior came along
He looked up in that tree,
And he said,
"Zaccheus, you come down,
For I'm going to your house for tea.

Anybody who is interested can read the story in Luke 19:1-10.

rellison@richellison.com said...

This statement Bradley gave the Tribune reporter says it all -

“I have been through a series of events that deeply challenged me,” Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney, said during an extended interview with The Texas Tribune. “I recognized that I could be angry, resentful and react to people, or I could look for the overall purpose and lesson and apply it to not only my own professional life but teach it. And I chose the latter path."

He repeatedly uses the words "I," "me" and "my," and how because of what happened to him he could be angry and resentful. No mention of Michael Morton or his family, or the other victims the real killer murdered while an innocent may spent 25 years in prison.

Bradley's comments are typical Calvinist holier than thou blather mixed with Oprah new age pop psychology - it all about me, me, me, and what a wonderful growth opportunity God has given him.

Hooman Hedayati said...

I think he's just trying to do anything he can to get re-election. I don't think he has changed his mind on anything.

Jefe said...

Until Bradley apologizes for that tie I'm not buying it.

Tawanda said...

Reverend Charles, I read your first post about Zaccheus and immediately remembered the words to the Vacation Bible School song. Then I scrolled down and saw the where you posted the words. Thank you for reminding me who I am spiritually.

I don't want to minimize any God Experience Bradley may be having and because of my upbringing, I want to be careful in this territory. However, Bradley has proven at this point that he is not to be trusted in a role that has a tremendous amount of power or any power over the lives of many people or any people.

Anonymous said...

If you think Bradley has come to Jesus look at this statement.
"I get claims of innocence hundreds of times every year. I get letters, I get phone calls, I get pleadings, and in each one those cases, 99.9999 percent of the time it is a false claim."
John Bradley is not mentally subnormal, yet no rational person who has view the stream of exonerations when there was DNA available for testing would assume the cases of actual innocence are one in a million.

Kevin Stouwie said...

I've always thought that the manner in which a prosecutor sees himself (or herself) is the main problem that leads to innocent people being convicted.

This is not a contest to see how many of the accused are convicted. It is supposed to be a search for the truth. The pursuit of that truth will help prosecutors to sleep at night. As such, I see no reason why ANY evidence is ever allowed to be witheld from defense attorneys. Call me naive, but the right to "face one's accuser in a court of law" means nothing if the evidence gathered, all of it, is not given over to the other side well in advance of any plea agreement or trial.

doran said...

"Lets see if he lives out his conversion. He could lead the way in advocating serious reforms in the system, and people would listen to him."

Hard to believe this could happen, but just keep in mind: Only Nixon could go to China.

Bill said...

To dfisher @ 11/18/2011 06:11:00 PM; There are other cases in Williamson County as well as other parts of Texas involving Roberto Bayardo that are also questionable. Bayardo was an expert witness for the State in numerous cases. His testimony has helped put God only knows how many innocent people away.

Anonymous said...

"I'll reform you, you soft-headed son of a bitch. How we gonna run reform when we're the damn incumbent?"

Wise words...

dfisher said...

Bill,

I'm aware of Bayardo's past, but then so are others who sit by and do nothing.

Over the last year the Harris Co. First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Jim Leitner and Assistant Harris County Attorney Nickolas Lycos (brother of DA Pat Lycos) have told me Bayardo was never a Harris Co. Medical Examiner.

In 1978 Bayardo obtained his position as Travis Co. Chief Medical Examiner by claiming he was the Harris Co. Deputy Chief Medical Examiner. The Austin American Statesman researched and verified this issue back in 2008, but decided their readers would not be interested in knowing this.

Anonymous said...

Why is no one asking why the sheriff's office did not follow up on the credit card that had been used and the check that was cashed.

Or has someone asked? What's the answer here?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:04, I don't know definitively, but IMO the answer is tunnel vision. They honed in on Morton, decided he was the bad guy, then ignored (and suppressed) evidence that didn't fit their case. That's a factor in many false convictions where alibis are ignored and leads on other suspects aren't followed up after an arrest has been made.

Plus, Williamson County was a much smaller, more rural backwater 25 years ago. It's possible the investigators at WCSO just weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer.

runi said...

With respect to the McArdle case, you do not have your facts straight. There is a video that clearly shows Brandon Threet beating Terence, getting pulled off Terence and then running back over and kicking him in the head. I've seen the video, and there is nothing purported about it. I've heard the horrific sound of Brandon's kick to my friend's head. Terence was completely healthy before Threet assaulted him. I'd suggest you look beyond the Austin Chronicle if you're interested in the facts. Terence was a great person and the only reason he is not here today is because of that fatal blow. If you think a kick to the brain stem and a six day coma and loss of brain function are not linked, then I guess The Chronicle succeeded in spinning this tragedy.