Wednesday, October 12, 2011

John Bradley facing local, national criticism now that Michael Morton formally exonerated

The Court of Criminal Appeals today officially added Michael Morton to the list of Texas DNA exonerees. See their order (pdf) and this sampling of MSM coverage:
At Time magazine, columnist Mark Benjamin offers up an item wondering if Williamson County DA John Bradley's efforts fighting Morton's DNA testing and the release of exculpatory records, as well as his role in quashing the investigation into the Todd Willingham case, may reflect poorly on Govenror Perry, who has been Bradley's long-time political patron, noting that efforts to exonerate Mr. Morton:
probably would have sprung [him] from prison years ago were it not for the role of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, a well-connected ally of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who fought tenaciously for six years to keep Morton behind bars. Twice a Perry appointee to influential legal posts, Bradley has generated controversy in his handling of two high-profile cases: Morton’s incarceration and the forensic review of evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who was executed in 2004 despite a cloud of uncertainty around the expert testimony that led to his conviction.

In early 2005, Morton’s attorneys sought DNA testing on a blood-stained bandana found outside the Morton home on the day after the brutal murder, which took place on Aug. 13, 1986. Court records show that Bradley, who was appointed by Perry in 2001 and was not Morton’s original prosecutor, sought to prevent that testing from ever taking place and tried to limit its effect on the case.

At first, Bradley argued that testing the bandana would open the floodgates to an indeterminable amount of new evidence. “One has to wonder whether petitioner would file another motion at some future date seeking additional testing of even more items,” he wrote in October of 2005. In a 2009 filing, Bradley argued that the bandana was irrelevant because it was found “a football field’s length” from the Morton’s house, and that if any DNA testing did take place “it should not incorporate the possibility of a match of any DNA profile recovered from the bandana to a known offender.

District attorneys vary widely in their willingness to consider new evidence, but Bradley’s efforts make him an outlier. The Innocence Project says it has to fight a prosecutor’s objections to DNA testing in less than half of its cases, and most resistance dries up quickly.
Closer to home, the blog Wilco Watchdog looks at the investigation into prosecutorial misconduct in the Morton case, arguing that Bradley shouldn't be involved:
Morton was convicted by a Williamson County jury for murdering his wife and then sentenced to life in prison. But evidence that should have been revealed at trial by prosecutors Ken Anderson (now a district judge in Williamson County) and Mike Davis (a Round Rock lawyer who does work for Williamson County as outside counsel) which clearly exonerates Morton was suppressed.  And other evidence, including a bloody bandana found near the murder scene which contained DNA showing that Morton didn't commit the murder, took years to be tested because Bradley fought hard not to release it and only did so when a Texas appeals court forced his hand.
And now Bradley, who admits to a close friendship with Anderson, is trying to insert himself into the case. Bradley himself is responsible for sequestering important evidence which, if released many years ago, would have allowed Morton to leave prison then, not last week.  It would have also allowed law enforcement agencies to look for the prime suspect, whose name is known from the DNA on the bandana and DNA from another murder committed in Austin a year after Morton went to prison. The same suspect who is still at large. Bradley’s actions not only cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars, but more importantly, it cost an innocent man his freedom for several additional years.
Bradley maintains he was not a prosecutor on the original case in 1986 stating “the ink on my law degree was barely dry”.  However, in 2008, Morton’s lawyers received a transcript between Christine Morton’s mother and Det. Sgt. Wood regarding a conversation between her and Morton’s son.  This information was received after a Texas open records request was filed over the objections of Bradley who also fought the release of this information. Morton’s attorneys also found a summary of the telephone transcript in a district attorney case file marked "trial documents” leading many to believe Bradley was fully aware the evidence existed.
Morton's lawyers argue that withholding the transcript violated the U.S. Constitution by trampling Morton's right to fair treatment by the legal system and his right to view prosecution evidence that could cast doubt on his guilt.
His knowledge of the note about Christine Morton's credit card being used after the murder, the forged endorsement on the check cashed after the murder, and the transcript with the eyewitness account stating that Morton wasn't the killer, all of which were held in Bradley's files, raise the serious question as to why Bradley sought to keep such evidence under wraps.  Because of Bradley's unexplained attempts to sequester this evidence, Bradley, of all people, should not be involved in any follow-up investigation of prosecutorial misconduct.
Even in the absence of all of the evidence that Bradley sequestered, Bradley's friendship with Anderson alone is enough, in and of itself, to kick Bradley off the case involving prosecutorial misconduct.
A special prosecutor should investigate all the front-line suspects involving the misconduct, including Anderson, Davis, Bradley, and Detective Don Wood.
Hear, hear! I couldn't agree more. The Watchdog also linked to an editorial (pdf) in the Williamson County Sun that quoted Bradley saying he was "proud" of his office's involvement in the Morton case, but the editorial writer the added:
Mr. Bradley should feel ashamed. His efforts to stymie DNA testing, along with his refusal to hand over exculpatory documents to defense attorneys, may have had consequences far beyond the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.

An unnamed man's DNA is now connected to two remarkably similar murder scenes within miles of each other: Ms. Morton's in 1986 and Debra Baker's in 1988.

That mystery man, a violent criminal who may still be at large, may have had many more chances to kill again as Mr. Morton languished in jail. That is a terrifying thought.

Still, Mr. Bradley seems more interested in protecting his reputation than in bringing the real killer to justice.
Strong words, but IMO completely justified, and I'm glad Bradley's hometown media is calling him out on the topic instead of circling the wagons to defend the local good ol' boy network. Competing perhaps only with the Anthony Graves debacle and a handful of others, this was among the most disgraceful displays of Texas prosecutors playing hide the ball in a serious case - over a 25 year stretch, no less - that I'm personally aware of, and Grits pays more attention to these topics than most.

Congrats to Mr. Morton, his family and all the attorneys and advocates who worked on this case for years. Morton's exoneration is a tremendous, if belated blow struck in the name of justice, particularly because those in Williamson County charged with seeking justice were the ones most actively standing in the way of achieving it.

Now it's time for the State Bar to get busy and actually ensure that there are personal and professional consequences for those men, both because they deserve to face consequences for their actions and to set an example for other prosecutors around the state engaging in similar behavior.


Dan said...


Bradley is a true piece of garbage who would not lose a wink of sleep keeping an innocent man in prison for life in order to avoid embarrassment for his buddies.

I know for a fact, since I live in Wilco and was personally affected, that Bradley refuses to enforce a FELONY despite his "tough on crime" rhetoric for the sole reason that his bar brothers and sisters make more money out of the non-enforcement.

Bradley has "instructed" law enforcement to lie to the public and tell victims and perpetrators that this felony is "not a crime but a civil matter, and the only option is to hire an attorney and go back to court".

The crime is at Penal Code 25.03 and is called "interference with child custody" and makes it a crime for either parent or guardian of a child to not give the child back to the other when it is their time.

Bradley would far rather desperate parents feed his bar cronies thousands of dollars in fees begging the Court to civilly enforce its order through contempt rather than simply tell the offender, you either give up the child or go to jail.

I went through this myself with my ex...but rather than feeding attorneys, explained to a Wilco Sheriffs Lt. that Texas Citizens arrest statute allowed me or anyone else to arrest for a felony and I would do so if they would not do their job. That and the threat of publicity caused them to ignore "Bradley's policy" in my case and to tell my ex in no uncertain terms that she would give me the kids or go to jail.

Hundreds of other parents in Wilco are not so lucky...since they believe the lies and don't have money for attorneys.

In truth this situation is state wide including Travis County, and cries out for a good investigative story. The reason I focus on Bradley is because he is such a Hypocrite with his "tough on crime" jabber.

Lastly Grits would you be interested in knowing that everything Bradley, Anderson, (and in fact many, many others) do on a daily basis is in violation of Federal Law?

Google 4 U.S.C. Section 101 and 102 to see a second, specifically worded Oath required by federal law, to be taken by all State Officials.

Bradley, Anderson, and all other Wilco Officials do not have it. Technically it bars them from acting until they take it.

Incidentally, it predates Texas, and traces its roots back to the very first act of the very first federal Congress.

You can Google 1 Stat. 23 if you wish to read this first act.

There is abundant Texas case law that holds that if a Judge hasn't taken their Texas Oath....their rulings are void.

I have some more information if you are interested, in particularly the strange case of Joseph Van Hodge in 1945 when an attorney used this information to save his clients life after he was sentenced to death and his conviction affirmed three times by the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The Attorney was able to get a unanimous Board of Pardons and Paroles along with the Governor to commit fraud and commute Van Hodges sentence to life in prison.

I do not see anyway to email you directly so if you wish you may contact me at or call me at 512-228-9416.

sunray's wench said...

Is there any way that the Lege could make a law that requires the original participants in a case to be barred from future appeal hearings for the same case? It seems absurd to me that the people who originally pronounced guilt, are then asked to change their minds when those same people want to be elected by their community. Surely it would serve justice better to have an independent legal team review the evidence at appeal - those who have nothing to lose by deciding that the first trial had been a miscarriage?

Ted said...

John Bradley deserves the same punishment for this case that the DA got in the Duke LaCrosse players case- he is truly a bad actor- I think its time to start talking about some form of liability- civil or criminal- for knowingly withholding Brady material- which tha ABA said, in it advisory issued a while back- icludes potentially mitigating material as well- as I understand Brady, a violation is constitutional in dimension, and should have similar sanctions as 38.22 and Miranda violations- with so many of these cases coming to light, I think its time to reconsider prosecutorial immunity- there are lots of prosecutors out there who routinely turn everything over- they have nothing to fear from Barry and the project- but there must be some teeth to Brady violations- similar to a more robust version of the exclusionary rule-and sanctions, including disbarrment- the fact that Bradley and Perry are mobbed up should surprise no one-please God, inform the American people of the absolute and unmitigated stupidity of this man- and do it quickly!!! congratulations to the Project and its work-criminal defense work is an honorable profession,and the project is a shining example of the good that men are capable of- keep watching Bradley- and Reed in San Antonio, she is just as mendacious-I promise you, they will do it again, just give 'em time

Don said...

Scott, like you, I was pleased to see that JB's hometown paper was calling his hand on some of his misdeeds. I thought they were all blind, deaf and dumb, or so steeped in denial they were incapable of objective thought. Is it possible, even remotely, that this case could finish this clown in Wilco??

Kevin Stouwie said...

Wiliamson County is at the top of the list for handing out harsh sentences. There are, however, a few other places that are in the same league.

The extreme sentences are not just the result of having a fairly conservative voter base. It is also the result of having a DA and his cronies on the bench who think it is their God given duty to make every person charged with a crime pay dearly, without regard to the true facts.

Unfortunately, when you operate with that kind of zeal, inconvenient things like mitigating or exculpatory facts sometimes get in the way. Rather than seek the truth, these kind of people think it's their job to throw the facts out the window, because they think that all the public wants is the "tough on crime" mantra. Maybe people are finally starting to wake up in Williamson County.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Bradley is the real killer...or knows him.....

Anonymous said...

Wilco is very corrupt Their motto is "convict at all cost". My opinion is that the defense lawyers appointed to represent our loved ones in Wilco fail to represent their clients properly because they are intimidated by the trial judges.

It is nothing for Wilco prosecutors and trial court to breach a plea agreement after it has been accepted, signed and filed by the trial Judge.

I would like GRITS to do an article on the the families and inmates who have been convicted by "wrong doing" of the prosecutors and Judges in Wilco.

Charlie O said...

What is it that prosecutors put so much effort into preventing the truth to come out after criminal convictions? It's obvious these people have no interest in justice or truth. They don't care who goes to prison, just so long as someone goes (that someone being the one they picked out) and then stays there. Their interest is convictions, not justice. How is this serving "the people?"

Phillip Baber said...

I am watching this investigation into Bradley et al closely. There is far more than a possibility that the frame job on Morton led to further killings, it is pretty much established as fact. Besides the heinous wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Morton, Debra Masters Baker's family has suffered immense pain and sorrow these last 23 years. Had Anderson done his job, just maybe she would still be alive today. I consider Anderson, Bradley and the others all complicit in her murder. None of them should possess a license to practice law, and Anderson damn sure should not be a judge!

Grandmom said...

I am not standing up for Williamson Co. and certainly not for John Bradley, but the Texas Justice Project issued a report in 2009 on 33 men exonerated from prison/death row due to DNA testing. Most of the innocent came from Harris and Dallas cos. and were convicted by some kind of prosecutorial/district attorney/judicial misconduct. The problem is systemic.

Anonymous said...

My case and story shares eerie similarities to the Williamson County, Texas case of Michael Morton.

In my memoir, CHASING JUSTICE, I detail a documented systemic legal history of judicially acknowledged prosecutorial misconduct in my crippling 22-year fight with East Texas prosecutors from a town in Texas called Tyler.

Former elected Georgetown, Texas District Attorney Ken Anderson and my prosecutor, Jack Skeen, were both given "Prosecutor of the Year" awards by the County and District Attorney Association section of the State Bar of Texas; both were subsequently appointed to State District Judgeship's by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

It took the Texas Court of criminal Appeals all of one day to GRANT John Bradley’s Motion declaring Michael Morton innocent. It took the same court nearly nine years to rule on my plea of innocence from death row. They affirmed it by a margin of 8-1.

When the United States Supreme Court reversed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmation of my trial and conviction and remanded it back to them for reconsideration in 1987, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals kept my appeal yet another year and then over-ruled the United States Supreme Court and re-affirmed it once again. Deeply into another year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed themselves in rare fashion and GRANTED my Motion for Re-Hearing. A year more into a legal nightmare and they finally overturned the conviction.

…But Texas Gov. political crony and appointee John Bradley as Williamson County District Attorney walks over a petition to secure a fast decisions to prevent the Innocence Project from having any time to investigate deeper prosecutorial misconduct and - - PRESTO! - - the ruling is immediate and unanimous.

I could keep going forever. I should be glad that I was not put to death. But now, I wished I had because it becomes too great a burden to have to live with sometimes. The only one ever punished was me.

Sometimes the biggest burden of all is having to wake up and go to bed knowing no one is listening. After all, it didn’t happen to you, it happened to me… and Michael Morton, Anthony Graves, Clarence Lee Brandley, Earnest Willis and….

Anonymous said...

John Bradly and his ilk are CORRUPT, vile,putrid, disgusting,lawless CRIMINALS. They're worse than the crooks they're prosecuting. One day they'll get railroaded and a taste of misjustice,Texas style. Hopefully the douche bag SLEAZY immoral,unethical law enforcement scum will be thrown into prison (like Judge Kent) and see how well they get 'treated" -like a prison bitch !!!

Anonymous said...

Which "Judge Kent" are you referring to?