Thursday, July 29, 2010

What trick, what device, what starting-hole canst thou now find out?

Rodger Jones at the Dallas News sent Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley a set of written questions - some of them pretty good ones, IMO - to which Bradley responded by saying Jones sounded like a "New York lawyer" and refusing to answer them. While Jones may be rightly faulted for the extra "d" in his name, the New York lawyer charge, he says, is unfounded: "I am neither a lawyer nor from New York. I neither sought nor got help from Barry Scheck's group in formulating my questions." Even so, no dice.

I thought then, since JB wasn't so inclined, I'd take a stab at guessing some of Bradley's likely answers, at least if one were to catch him in a particularly candid mood (Rodger's questions are in italics):
1. Your handling of the Cameron Todd Willingham case has been faulted as heavy-handed and politically motivated. What do you say to your critics?

JB: You say "heavy-handed," I say "dictatorial." But let's not mince words: I'm doing the job the Governor brought me in to do.

2. Draft recommendations to the Texas Forensic Science Commission appear to have reached a foregone conclusion of no negligence by arson investigators in the Willingham case. Will the final report go beyond this finding? 

JB: Yes, I'm pushing the commission to enact a "good intentions" standard where, so long as the expert witness believes the testimony they're giving, it will still be admissible in court even if it contradicts basic scientific tenets. I believe such a change would put this whole arson issue to bed once and for all.

3. The law says the commission's final report on a negligence case must address "corrective action required by the laboratory, facility or entity" involved. Is the commission obligated to assess whether the State Fire Marshal's Office has upgraded standards?

JB: Hahahahahahahahaha!

4. The recommendations clear Willingham investigators of negligence because they used forensic techniques accepted at the time. Yet the commission's paid expert said investigators didn't meet even that standard. How do you square the two?

JB: It's simple, really. When experts say things you don't like, you ignore them and make up findings to say whatever you want. You non-lawyers wouldn't understand but we do it all the time in court.

5. Experts say hundreds of arson defendants have been convicted based on similarly outmoded standards. How should the commission or state fire marshal address that claim?

JB: With smirks, sarcasm and derision. As far as I'm concerned, if they were convicted, they're guilty. Post-conviction exonerations are for pussies.

6. Why did the committee of four commissioners working on the Willingham case meet in private? Shouldn't the public be aware of factors that members weighed in recommending no negligence?

JB: Duh! Because if we meet in secret we can't be held accountable for anything we say or do. Are you new?

7. Will the committee draft the final report in public?

JB: There will be a final report released at some point in the future - an extremely distant point. I intend to provide instructions regarding its release in my last will and testament, and historians can see it after I pass.

8. What is your opinion of the role of Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project of New York in the Willingham case?

JB: Are you kidding? I despise that truculent little gnome. For that matter, I don't think too highly of you, either.
What a friggin disgrace for a public official to refuse to answer questions on the grounds that a reporter from Dallas sounds like a "New York lawyer." Going forward, as he seeks answers directly from the source, perhaps Jones should add one more question to his list, echoing the prince in Shakespeare's Henry IV to inquire, "What trick, what device, what starting-hole canst thou now find out to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?"

* * *

Relatedly, here's a bit more coverage on latest from the FSC:


Jeff said...

Well done!

Anonymous said...

This is classic(...and hysterical)!

Anonymous said...

Although funny, the real shame here is obvious. A Public official that very publicly states he does not have to answer to the public. Yeah, government has gotten WAY out of control here.

I understand that he is appointed, but do citizens have any recourse against asshats of this caliber?

Anonymous said...

Mention "New York" and "lawyer" all in one breath and you're sure to manipulate the majority of Texas voters. Too easy.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see JB's comment here in response. I wonder if he will post anonymously, or maybe sign this one for a change. Or watch out, Grits, your satire might even get you sued!

He may be able to stay in place in Williamson Co., but his ambitions for higher office are pretty much screwed. If he gets his expected pay-back appointment to the CCA from Perry he may well be the first R to lose a statewide office in years. It will be because his strategy with this whole thing (which he no doubt thinks is very clever)has been to stonewall real answers to important questions. Sandbagging tour-de-farce.

It is pretty hilarious that he has this psychological complex (may want to get into this with your therapist, JB) about lawyers from New York. "Ugh, Texas good. Ugh. New York bad. Other states not Texas bad. Ugh." It is really weird, and it makes him seem so insecure.

Because he is a prosecutor, he wants to make the question all about what some individual did or didn't do, and how that person should be held accountable. He narrowed the scope and gradually convinced key commissioners that it was all about some individual or other, rather than the larger questions about how flawed science was allowed to serve as the basis for an execution.

JB's brand of conservatism is supposed to be rooted in suspicion of government power. The government can't be trusted with power, so we shouldn't give it power unless absolutely necessary. EXCEPT for the criminal justice system, a huge part of government, which, apparently, deserves all the trust and benefit of the doubt in every circumstance.

Maybe JB will be pushed by some of the others on the commission to get to the real question about how unscientific theories that have been proven false led to an execution, and to figure out what we need to do about it. Get over the idea of prosecuting some person, and look at that question.

But maybe they won't ever get there because JB's prosecutorial clairvoyance can establish Willingham's guilt beyond any doubt, making this whole exercise unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

So much for "transparency." When will the lege jerk a knot in his tail?

Anonymous said...

But Barry Scheck is a "truculent little gnome," Grits!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:12, I was channeling JB. :) I like Barry just fine.

Anonymous said...

And yet, he'll get elected again. The biggest crook in Williamson County Texas, elected over and over again by people who favor 'tough on crime' policy...he must laugh his ass off every frigging day of his evil life.