Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Challenger's polling says John Bradley vulnerable in Williamson County primary

Williamson County DA John Bradley has drawn a primary opponent - incumbent County Attorney Jana Duty - in a campaign that appears likely to center around the Michael Morton exoneration and Bradley's role in fighting DNA testing for twenty years and opposing release of exculpatory evidence to the defense. The Texas Tribune has an interview with Duty regarding her challenge here. Duty decided to run after conducting a poll of GOP primary voters, she said, leading her to believe Bradley could be beat. The told the Trib:
It's going to be a competitive race, because he has name recognition. He's well known and in some circles well respected.

I recently did a poll, a survey, to see how the people out in the general public feel about the job that he's doing. Do they echo the concerns that are being echoed in the courthouse? And what I found is that they do. They are concerned. I think a lot of people want to see change, and I don't believe they see John Bradley the way he sees himself.

So that was encouraging to me that with the proper message, getting the truth out about the way that office really runs, that he can be beat.
Duty has some of her own baggage, but of quite a different sort than Bradley's. She's been in a big feud with the good-ol' boy crowd at the county commissioners court, which hired an outside attorney over her objections - ironically the attorney who was the second chair prosecutor at Michael Morton's original trial. The State Bar upheld a complaint against Duty for revealing information she learned in executive session of the commissioners court. But the reason she did so stems in part from conflicting roles: She was attending an executive session as attorney for the commissioners court, but she is also a prosecutor. The information revealed related to what she believed was a criminal offense.

Bradley will inevitably attack Duty over the state bar reprimand - indeed, in the Trib story he's already begun - but her revealing secret information because she believed a crime has been committed is quite a polar opposite issue to Bradley's woes. By comparison, Bradley opposed DNA testing in the Morton case for two decades, mocked Morton for seeking to prove his innocence, and fought to keep information secret that would ultimately exonerate an innocent man and lead to the capture of an alleged killer. Grits prefers a prosecutor who broke a rule to expose corruption over one who manipulated the rules to cover up mistakes and misconduct. Anyway, there's an extent to which Duty's reprimand stems from a fundamental tension that exists between the role of a County Attorney as adviser to the commissioners court and her role as prosecutor of crimes. Those duties, Duty discovered, sometimes conflict.

While there's no other coverage of Duty's nascent campaign yet, at least that I could find, here's the text of an email Grits received this morning announcing her candidacy:
Williamson County Attorney Jana Duty announced her intentions today to challenge District Attorney John Bradley in the March 6th Republican Primary election. Duty said she is challenging Bradley because she believes the citizens deserve a D.A. who understands that his/her job is to seek justice. 

“Unfortunately there is a cloud hanging over the District Attorney’s office,” Duty said. “John Bradley represents all that is wrong with our criminal justice system today. Instead of seeking justice, Bradley aggressively fought against DNA testing for a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for over two decades for murder. The whole time the real killer remained on the loose committing additional crimes. Bradley has also repeatedly refused to prosecute his buddies at the courthouse for their blatant violations of the law. Worse still, he reduces roughly 25% of his felony cases to misdemeanors annually, and passes them off to my office. Some of those cases involve child predator offenders which I find reprehensible.  These are not the actions of a tough prosecutor, but instead are the actions of a self-serving politician who cares more about his statistics than seeking justice.  That’s why I am running for District Attorney.”

Duty has served as the Williamson County Attorney since 2005 where she prosecutes misdemeanor and felony crimes. During her tenure in office, she has more than doubled the amount of protective orders obtained for victims of family violence, saved millions of tax dollars through innovations and efficiencies, and has implemented checks and balances to insure government transparency. Duty has also earned a reputation for taking on the “good old boy” system at the courthouse, a reputation she embraces. 

Duty continued, “I make no apologies for being an advocate for the people of this county.  If that makes me unpopular with the courthouse insiders, so be it.  My pledge to the people of Williamson County is to bring honesty and integrity back to the D.A.’s office, to see that everyone is treated evenly and fairly under the law and to continue fighting to protect our families as I have done as County Attorney. We need a D.A. who will put the public interest above his own political career and that of his friends.”

Duty’s public service continues a family tradition that goes back nearly two centuries.  Jana Duty is a direct descendant of Joseph Duty, one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” settlers, who received a title to a league of land in Texas from the Mexican government in 1824. Eventually he settled with his family at Webberville in Travis County. Duty also had four ancestors who fought in the Texas Revolution, including two who participated in the final victorious battle at San Jacinto. In fact, the Duty family has had at least one family member fight in every conflict that Texas has ever been a part of. 

Duty is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and the St. Mary’s University School of Law.  Prior to becoming a prosecutor, she was a high school English teacher. She and her husband, Daniel, are the proud parents of three children and three grandchildren. They make their home in Georgetown.
“The implications of this campaign go well beyond me and my family,” Duty concluded. “I hope the entire community will rally around our cause and send a strong signal on March 6th that business-as-usual will no longer be tolerated.  It’s time to start a new era in the District Attorney’s office, and that fight starts today.”
To find out more or to join the campaign, please visit .
The Trib's Brandi Grissom called Bradley "a giant figure in Texas politics," but that may overstate things: He's an influential figure in legal circles, no doubt, but politically he lost his only ever competitive race - for the Court of Criminal Appeals back in the '90s - was appointed to his current spot by Rick Perry, and has never faced a serious challenger until now. Duty, by contrast, appears quite serious: She's coming to get him.

Now we find out if Bradley the media bully can back up his tough-guy image on the campaign trail standing on his own two feet as opposed to on the shoulders of this or that political patron. Can he raise money? Does he know how to run a campaign or employ consultants who do? Will voters really prefer him when they have a choice? Has the Michael Morton case damaged him beyond repair, or will voters believe his road to Damascus schtick? Stay tuned. We'll find out next spring.

MORE: Check in later at the blogs Wilco Watchdog and Eye on Williamson County, both of which I'm sure will be covering Duty's announcement soon.


Anonymous said...

RE GFB:..."Grits prefers a prosecutor who broke a rule to expose corruption over one who manipulated the rules to cover up mistakes and misconduct."

Couldn't agree with you more and brother there is much corruption in local government that needs exposing. People can't fathom how tough a call that is for a prosecutor to make. County can literally cut the financial balls off the prosecutors office. It is the prosecutors job to file charges against County Commissioners who act criminally. And since most prosecutors want to become an elected or appointed judge some day, short of murder, they will seledom if ever file charges against county commissioners. Very rarely do you see anyone charged with violating the open meetings act. Class 'A' offense in many cases. But rarely is anyone dicharged from office or charged with an offense. Yet anyone who has worked in these environments knows that there are officials intentionally violating these laws.

So that was without a doubt a very courageous effort on Duty's part.

Anonymous said...

John Bradley: Adios Mo-Fo

One vote here for Duty (make that two counting my wife)

Anonymous said...

To 8:19 - next step, get some flyers from her campaign, go door to door, organize your own precinct for her and do GOTV. Go get him!

Can't believe I'm saying this but I almost wish I lived in Williamson County so I could do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

What color is the sky in John Bradleys world? By even running for re-election after everything he has done disgraces that office and Williamson county but he honestly thinks he has done nothing wrong. He should resign. The State Bar of Texas better not do their pal John a favor and try to sweep his grievances under the rug. Everyone is watching.
Bradley needs to go. Duty has my vote.

Robert Rister said...

Wait a minute. The commissioners hired the second chair in the Morton prosecution--who is claiming memory lapses due to health issues? Did Mike (whom I always liked, by the way) develop this problem before or after representing the commissioners?

I don't believe in anonymous commenting. If I disappear you'll know why:) Robert Rister

Craig Jenkins said...

I am fighting with a John Bradley kool aid drinker on the Tribune. What have I become.

11/18/2011 10:13:00 AM Email this article • Print this article

Dear editor,

"No, no! Sentence first - verdict afterwards!" the Queen of Hearts said in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," by Lewis Carroll.

Silly words spoken by a silly character during a silly story about a trial where none of the normal rules applied. Just a fairy tale, right?

Well, for those who are accused of felony crimes in Williamson County - and their defense attorneys - dealing with Mr. John Bradley's district attorney office can sometimes make one feel like they have, like Alice, truly dropped down a rabbit hole.

In his recent opinion column (Oct. 29 Leader), Mr. Bradley takes pains to assure the public that unlike in the knuckle-dragging days of the past, circa the trial of the wrongly convicted Michael Morton, today's "modern" discovery at the Williamson County District Attorney's office is conducted in a more open manner.

He writes, "... you can be sure that in Williamson County, before any contested trial begins today, the defense lawyer will have already received access to all the information collected in the case."

Sounds great, doesn't it?

Ah, but let's go through the looking glass together, shall we, and see where this statement falls well short of reality.

As Mr. Bradley is undoubtedly aware, well over 90 percent of criminal cases in Texas are resolved without a trial. The vast majority of cases are settled with a plea bargain. His letter, focusing only on what discovery is available to defense counsel immediately prior to a full-blown trial, ignores that vast majority of cases his office disposes of.

So let's talk about that vast majority.

In Williamson County, it is common practice that many of those felony plea bargains are given to defense counsel and their clients on a "one-day only" basis - meaning take it today, or the deal gets worse.

And that "today" is often the first day the attorney and client have ever been in court. Many, many times a request for additional evidence (oftentimes something as simple as a lab report or a DWI videotape of a client being stopped by the police) will be denied by Mr. Bradley's prosecutors with the veiled warning that if a deal is not speedily taken, the stakes for the client could get much worse.

While I routinely advise my clients to ignore such attempts at bully brinksmanship and wait patiently until I can secure all the evidence, it puts my clients in an awful bind.

They are made to choose between a plea bargain right now, when I have not had a chance to fully evaluate their case, or suffer a worse bargain later, after I have had the chance to do my ethical best to collect all the evidence in the state's hands.

A plea-bargain offer is only as good as the evidence that can back it up.

When evidence is not revealed to defense counsel during the critical plea bargaining stage of a case - well before the decision to go to a jury trial is made - injustice occurs.

We should demand transparency during all phases of prosecution.

Mr. Bradley, let's leave the kangaroo courts for the storybooks, please.

- Mark Brunner,


Editor's Note: Mark Brunner is a criminal defense lawyer formerly employed by the Williamson County District Attorney's office.

Anonymous said...

Duty's coming to get him and she's coming with an Army and we'll be at the polls to oust his sorry @$$. The Army will be made up of the voters of all the families that Bradley has harmed during his extended stay in WilCo. It will include voters who have heard his lies and witnessed his arrogance. We are tired of Bradley turning a blind eye to the corruption within the county government. The Army will be made up of WilCo residents who have found Bradley to be huge embarrassment to this county in his handling of the Willingham Case. Bradley's goin' down.

Daniel Simon said...


Yesterday, I filed a formal written Bar Grievance against John Bradley for his multiple violations of the rules of Professional Conduct, as well as his quite arguable criminal actions in both his blanket refusal to prosecute a certain FELONY he believes shouldn't be a well as his browbeating "policy" of pressuring LEOs to actually lie to people and tell them it is not even a crime.

Penal Code Sections make it the crime of Official Misconduct for a public official to fail to perform duties imposed upon them by Statute...and Penal Sections make a person who has a duty or ability to prevent crime the equivalent of an accessory even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted.

In other words even if Bradley tries to hide behind tortured arguments of Prosecutorial Discretion, the fact that a crime has been committed that he had a duty to try to prevent makes him guilty of each and every instance of this crime.

The Crime? Penal Code Section 25.03(Interference with Child Custody) that occurs when divorced or separated parents of guardians refuse to surrender a child to another who has rights of possession, access or visitation.

This happens hundreds of times per month in Wilco and waste millions of dollars a year in public resources with wasted 911 calls, wasted LEO trips to the scene to lie, wasted follow-up offense reports sent to Bradley's office to end up in the trash, as well as wasted Court resources for those with enough money and desperate enough to hire a civil attorney to try to enforce their rights by contempt.

I am emailing you a copy of this Grievance Grits...and hope you will help expose this crook for exactly what he is.

Daniel Simon

Anonymous said...

So you're filing a grievance against Bradley for not filing State Jail felony charges against divorced Mommas and Daddies who don't get their kids returned to the custodial parent by 6:00 on Sunday evening? I can't wait to hear what Grits has to say about that!

Daniel Simon said...

No Anonymous, (you coward)

I DID file a Bar Grievance against John Bradley for his Policy of refusing to prosecute anyone no matter how long they deny the other parent their kid.

Not only are you a coward who refuses to put your name on your post, you are too stupid and dishonest to read the statute and incapable of understanding that "Custodial and Non-Custodial" are not found on Texas Divorce decrees but is actually federal welfare terminology.

And you are to ignorant and stupid to understand that the reason John Bradley has law enforcement LIE to the public is because parents who miss, hours, day and weeks with their children would have his head on a pike.

I suspect you are either Bradley himself, one of his subordinates or a "family law" shyster in Wilco who benefits from his policy.

Incidentally, if you are/know John Bradley take this as a personal challenge from me to him to a public debate on this issue on the Courthouse square anytime. Loser gets his head shaved.

Daniel Simon

and that is my real name and phone number!

Daniel Simon said...


Just so you understand there are honorable DAs in this State, here is an Appeals case out of El Paso, where the conviction of a woman who denied her ex the kids over 20 times was upheld.

Note that honorable Judges understand the Statute applies to both parents.

And unlike John Bradley, I would bet the DA out there doesn't have LEOs telling people it is "not a crime".

Just so you understand...if the cops show up and tell the truth the problem stops. If the parent insists on not releasing the child(ren) the cop arrests, if the cop has to go that far Bradley should prosecute.

But even if he doesn't, and lets them "beat the rap, they don't beat the ride". Their would be few repeat offenders.

Daniel Simon

John Guardian said...

Jana Duty is actually suing the AG in the case Duty v. Abbott in Travis County District Court. She wrote a nasty letter to one of the county judges and does not want to make it public, even thought the AG has ruled it is public under the open records laws. Instead of turning it over, she sued. This is hardly the "take on the good ol'boys" stance she likes to portray. And what is in this letter that she is so worried about that she would sue the AG in her official capacity to keep it out of the public eye?

John Guardian said...

Jana Duty is actually suing AG Abbott in Travis Co. District Court over a nasty letter she wrote to one of the county judges that she doesn't want to make public. The AG ruled it is open to the public under the open records law, but instead of releasing it, she sued the top law enforcement officer of the state using taxpayer money. So, what is in this letter that she doesn't want out there?

Daniel Simon said...

John (Bradley) Guardian,

OOOOHH a "nasty" letter to a County Judge! What pray tell keeps the County Judge from making it public?

Especially since they all hate her for exposing their good ole boy cover-up and pay-off on Higgenbotham's sexcapades and particularly if they have Greg Abbott's ruling to fall back on.

I suspect her "nasty letter" is tame compared to what I or any other taxpayer in Wilco would write since they bail out their buds, like Don "can't keep it in my pants" Higgenbotham with our money and they all know of and apparently approve of Bradley's criminal co-opting of Law Enforcement to fatten his buddy's wallets by his zero enforcement policy of felony interference with child cu$tody, because I told them at Commissioner's Court (the dollar sign is intentional since that is all shysters like Bradley thinks we are)

Daniel Simon

Anonymous said...

WOW! Jana Duty wrote a nasty letter to a Wilco Judge LOL Whoopdie friggin deal. John Bradley has sued the AG several times when he didn't like the opinion he recieved from them. Who cares. Move on.

Robert Rister said...

Grits, I think your analysis leaves out one salient characteristic of the Williamson county electorate: Alzheimer's. Also pre-Alzheimer's. For 20 years Georgetown has cultivated commercial relationships to voters at the greatest risk of dementia. It's reflected in the outcome of elections. And these guys and gals don't answer the phone when pollsters call. Robert

Gritsforbreakfast said...

OTOH, Robert, about 70% of Wilco voters, I'm told, didn't live in the county when Bradley was appointed and most voters have no stake in the good ol' boy network that still runs the county. Who knows what those voters will do when presented with an actual choice?

Anonymous said...

Duty has the respect and admiration of the defense attorney's who have seen her command justice with compassion and fairness to all.
She has hired top notch assistant county attorney's who carry out their Duty under
DUTY to prosecute and deliver justice. HER top man Dee Hobbs who is the likely winner to take her place has a open door policy. Duty truly has open discovery and is far more progressive by emailing reports to attorney's thus streamlining the system.
The opposite is true under Bradley, no open discovery for the defendants attorney, causing delays and unnecessary fights to get what is rightfully due the opposing, attorney.
Bradley posts his wins on his office website giving the voters a false sense of security.
BRADLEY doesn't post all the cases that aren't a slam dunk that he reduces to misdemeanors and dumps on Duty's office to prosecute because its not a sure win.
DUTY AND HOBBS will continue raising the bar, the citizens deserve the best.