Thursday, April 08, 2010

Where's Waldo? Questioning the Forensic Science Commission chairman in absentia

Apparently there was quite a kerfuffle yesterday at the House Public Safety Committee meeting in an oversight hearing involving the Forensic Science Commission in which Chairman John Bradley declined to participate. In his stead sat two current members of the commission, Garry Adams and Sarah Kerrigan, and former member, Aliece Watts, who I understand was particularly critical of the new direction the commission has taken (backward).

At an earlier legislative hearing Bradley had openly snubbed Public Safety Committee Chairman Tommy Merritt, so the no-show only comes as a partial surprise. Rep. Lon Burnam is also on that committee and I'm sure Bradley knew they'd come loaded for bear. But even if one doesn't respect the officeholders, one should respect the institution: This is the Committee has jurisdiction over Bradley's agency and I don't personally recall ever hearing of an agency head who refused to submit to legislative oversight.

The Texas Tribune's Morgan Smith and Christy Hoppe at the Dallas News covered the event, both citing sharp, bipartisan criticism of the chairman in absentia. Between them they provide a good account. In particular, reports Hoppe:

The lawmakers wanted to hear about changes that Bradley has attempted to institute – including asking his fellow commissioners to destroy most of their e-mails after a day and to not speak with the media. He also has sought to discontinue the commission's practice of allowing members from the public to address them during their meetings, his colleagues said.

Such directives "really undermine public confidence. That's what we're asking about," said Rep. Stephen Frost, D-Atlanta.

Smith notes that Bradley's "fellow forensic board members who did appear distanced themselves from Bradley under questioning by the board."

Perhaps soon I'll find time to watch the archived video of the questioning, which apparently ran about an hour and a half, and have more to add on the subject. The portion of the hearing pertaining to the Forensic Science Commission begins around the 1:36:00 mark. In the meantime, here is some of Grits' recent coverage of the controversies they're talking about, particularly involving the Commission's most recent meeting in January:


Unknown said...

Gotta love that John Bradley, bastion of open government.

Anonymous said...

I encourage anyone who has been following this story to WATCH THE VIDEO. The Forensic Science Commission portion is about halfway through the hearing. It is wonderful political theater. Unfortunately the MSM seems more concerned about why Bradley wasn't there rather than what his fellow and former commission members said about the disarray, secrecy, and authoritarianism Bradley has brought to the commission.

Pam Lakatos said...

Thank you for highlighting this. It is too easy to become absorbed by the everyday brush fires. This is of vital importance to all of us who practice criminal law-both defense lawyers, as well as prosecutors. Fairness, justice and accuracy are the touchstones of all who claim to represent the people. No one should rest easy when a system is unconcerned about the possibility of convicting innocent people.