Relatedly, the blog Wilco Watchdog has been diligently chronicling Williamson County DA John Bradley's re-election foibles, including a recent rumpus with a local police union that endorsed his opponent and accused Bradley of misrepresenting their political motives.
That is a hot, hot DA's primary fight in Williamson County. So despite his latter-day conversion, another turn in the barrel for the Michael Morton case in the national media likely won't do Bradley's re-election campaign much good. The man fought for years to keep Mr. Morton from getting exculpatory evidence tested, a record that earned him the distinction of Worst American Prosecutor of 2011, according to a reader poll at The Agitator blog. And Judge Ken Anderson, the former DA accused of withholding evidence in Morton's case 25 years ago, is Bradley's patron, mentor and even sometime writing partner, though JB now says they're on the outs.
Hopefully coverage on the respected 60 Minutes will also ratchet up pressure for reforms at the Texas Legislature next year aimed at stemming prosecutorial misconduct - a subject on which Grits has been compiling reform suggestions. Bradley's future isn't nearly as important as whether the state learns from mistakes like this or allows prosecutors to throw up a smokescreens to prevent legislative intervention. It's clear the courts and/or existing statutes aren't up to the task, so if one wants stronger incentives for prosecutors to play by the rules, the legislative branch is perhaps the best hope.
Finally, I wanted to alert readers in Austin to a timely event on this topic that Grits plans to attend:
Prosecutorial Oversight: A national dialogue in the wake of Connick v. ThompsonEvent moderator Jennifer Laurin, I notice, has an academic paper on Connick v. Thompson which must also go on Grits' reading list.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
1:30 to 3:30 PM
University of Texas School of Law – Austin, Texas
Please join us for the Texas stop of a national tour to address the issue of prosecutorial oversight. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Connick v. Thompson rejected civil liability for Brady violations in lieu of what it took to be effective status quo mechanisms for training, supervising, and remediating prosecutorial disclosure issues. A discussion followed by Q&A will address existing oversight mechanisms in Texas, assess their adequacy, and explore possible avenues of reform.
The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are encouraged. Please register by Tuesday, March 27 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Betty Blackwell – Attorney, former chair of the Texas Commission for Lawyer Discipline
- Jennifer Laurin (moderator) – Assistant Professor, University of Texas School of Law
- Jim Leitner - First Assistant District Attorney, Harris County
- Michael Morton – Freed after 25 years in prison in Texas following DNA exoneration and revelation of concealed exculpatory evidence
- Hon. Bob Perkins (Ret.) – Former judge, 331st District Court, Travis County
- Professor Robert Schuwerk – Professor, University of Houston Law Center, author of leading treatise on Texas rules of professional conduct
- John Thompson – Founder and Director of Resurrection After Exoneration and Voices of Innocence and plaintiff in Thompson v. Connick, imprisoned in Louisiana for 18 years (14 on death row), freed after revelation of concealed exculpatory evidence
- Emily West – Research Director, The Innocence Project