A judge Tuesday denied a defense request to remove Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley from the Michael Morton case in the wake of new DNA evidence that has raised questions about Morton’s 1987 conviction for his wife’s murder.
The hourlong hearing was more notable for intriguing details that emerged about the DNA evidence, which was found on a bandanna containing the blood and hair of the murder victim, Christine Morton.
Stubblefield said he was confident that the district attorney’s office and investigators would conduct a proper investigation. But the judge warned that he wanted no foot dragging, and he set a Sept. 27 court date to receive a progress report.
“What I do not want to happen is for there to be a protracted, long period of investigation,” Stubblefield said, adding that he plans to be “very tough” on both sides when it comes to sharing evidence that could point to Morton’s guilt or innocence.
“We must all have the courage to learn the facts and let them lead the way,” he said.
It’s really no surprise that a judge in Williamson County did not want to take the Williamson County DA off of this case.
Now that that’s settled, everyone at the prosecutor’s office needs to work finding out the truth in this case. Because if Williamson County put the wrong man in jail 25 years ago, a huge injustice has been done to the Morton family, and the real killer is still at large.
The real murderer might have been identified six years ago if Mr. Bradley hadn’t fought DNA testing tooth and nail. Indeed, as regular Grits readers know, Bradley would likely have preferred DNA evidence had been destroyed outright to avoid exactly this outcome. In a now redacted string on the prosecutors’ user forum (which Grits saved and uploaded here), Bradley advocated seeking DNA destruction as part of plea agreements on the grounds that “Innocence … has proven to trump most anything.” “A better approach,” he said, “might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest.” That stance was one of the reasons Texas senators criticized the Williamson DA before rejecting his confirmation this spring as chair of the Forensic Science Commission.
If the defense in this case was “grasping at straws,” as Mr. Bradley derisively told the media all these years, they sure latched onto a strong one. I have a hard time imagining the courts will uphold Mr. Morton’s conviction in the face of a conclusive DNA match to someone else.
On one point, Bradley was right: “Innocence has proven to trump most anything.” But his conclusion from that observation was downright perverse. That means innocence claims, where they credibly exist, should be vigorously and rapidly pursued, not that evidence should be destroyed in order to reduce appellate opportunities and to make sure that actual innocence can never be established. The Michael Mortons of the world deserve better. Indeed, all of us do.
On the Wilco District Attorney website, Bradley boasts of using DNA testing and the national DNA database to convict criminals. Bradley is quoted as saying, “Without the new Texas laws that take DNA samples from convicted felons and add them to [the] national database, Mary McCallie’s family would never have known who was responsible for her death.” Apparently, when DNA testing and the national database are used to free the innocent, Bradley is no longer interested in justice.
“When an innocent person is convicted of a crime, it makes all of us less safe and delays justice. First, because the real criminal is still at large, and second, because next time the wrong person is put behind bars it could be a member of our own family,” said Williamson County Democratic Party chair Brian Hamon. “John Bradley has a record of cover up from his recent stint as Gov. Rick Perry’s pick to chair the Texas Forensic Science Commission , scuttling an investigation into flawed fire science.
In the interest of justice, Williamson County needs a new District Attorney.”
An innocent man has spent nearly 25 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, and the damage done to him and his family cannot be repaired. Justice delayed is justice denied.
My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. -Warren E. Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway (Stop Coddling the Super-Rich, New York Times Op-Ed, August, 14, 2011).
It’s one of the facts of politics that when the GOP starts hollering about class warfare that someone has hit a nerve. Because a couple other facts are that the GOP is the party of wealth, and the biggest sales job in the last 40 years was Reagan getting the working class to vote for the GOP and against their economic best interest.
Judging from the furious reaction of some of the gilded-class crowd and their Republican protectors, billionaire Warren Buffett struck a nerve with his plea to Congress to “stop coddling the super-rich.” Former American Express CEO Harvey Golub and Tea Party sugar daddy Charles Koch were quick to protest respectively “the unfair way taxes are collected” and that “my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.” Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor attacked President Obama’s “efforts to incite class warfare.”
Of course, a truism of American politics is that the side decrying the class war is the one winning it. And at a time when the federal tax burden is at its lowest in 60 years and income inequality at its highest level in 80, Republicans would still rather wave the unbloodied shirt of class warfare than ask what America’s rich and famous can do for their country.
Our circumstances are the result of decades of reforms that shifted taxes off the wealthy onto the middle-class under the pretense of “trickle-down” economics. That strategy has proven ineffective and needs to be reversed. Yet, conservative officials gnash their teeth and threaten the global economy at the mere mention of correcting those policy mistakes.
We can no longer allow a hopelessly unreasonable minority in a severely corrupted system to dictate the terms of our economy. MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan has asserted that Obama should abandon our “bought Congress” and begin a dialogue with voters to restore democracy and repair the economy.
Clearly, we can’t sit and wait for Obama to knock on our doors to chat. Our elected leadership will do what it will for as long as we allow it. Indeed, we can’t “make them” fix the economy by asking them to do it. We can only get it to happen by organizing, educating, and mobilizing people from all walks of life to fight for justice in all places where it does not exist, from our nation’s capital to our own neighborhoods.
A discovery made in researching court records has upped the ante considerably on the need to declare a man who has been in prison almost 25 years innocent of murder. The document, which has not previously been cited or published by media, also begs for a fresh and complete investigation of the Williamson County commissioners court and its attempt to protect a lawyer who was involved in that murder case, as well as commissioners court’s apparent retaliation against the county attorney who tried to confront the protection practice.
And perhaps of greatest importance, especially in light of this new document, are the motives, actions and practices of Williamson County’s present district attorney, John “Marty” Bradley.
In 1987, Michael W. Morton, a Williamson County resident, was convicted by a Williamson County jury of murdering his wife, Christine, in 1986. On August 17, 2011, after a relentless effort by The Innocence Project and Morton’s attorneys, the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle, The Texas Tribune, and other media, including electronic media, broke the news that Morton’s attorneys had been successful in having key evidence subjected to DNA analysis, with the result that Morton now appears not to have committed the crime. Other exculpatory evidence has also been brought into play by this development in the case. During efforts on Morton’s behalf to acquire and test the evidence, John Bradley, the current district attorney in Williamson County, went to extensive efforts to keep the evidence from being released and tested.
And now, close on the heels of that initial breaking news, there is additional and significant information which has not been previously published by media. Research has turned up documentation pointing to the conclusion that Bradley apparently is not alone in the effort to sequester key evidence. The prosecution team in that 1987 trial, and one member of that team in particular (second chair), has been identified by the new documentation as being in the center of the exculpatory evidence controversy.
In an aftershock related to the person in that second chair, the controversial conflict between County Attorney Jana Duty and the Williamson County commissioners court (which is still ongoing because of grievances filed by that court against Duty with the Texas Bar Association) is shown in a new light, pointing to a conclusion which supports Duty’s actions in trying to hold members of commissioners court, and County Judge Dan Gattis in particular, accountable for alleged improprieties which include, of all people, the person in the second chair at the Morton trial as well as District Attorney John Bradley.
Additional controversy in Williamson County is ongoing in another developing and fast-moving plot in which commissioners court appears to be attempting to exact retaliation on Duty and some members of her staff for their attempts to hold members of that court accountable for their actions. And a sidebar to the perspective involves commissioner court members apparently deciding to discontinue important, safety-net, social service and human service aspects of the county’s obligation to provide for the welfare of its citizens.
The already-existing field of Republican Presidential candidates, along with former Bush administration officials, and even the current occupants of the White House, reacted to Rick Perry’s entry into the Presidential race, and Letters from Texas reacted to their reaction. The conclusion: they’re all screwing this up.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the horror that often times is the Williamson County justice and DA John Bradley. A man has spent 24 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, it truly is A tragic story.
From Iowa corn dog porn, to “gaps” in the theory of evolution, to passive-aggressive assaults on Ben Bernanke and from Karl Rove, Rick Perry had a no good, very bad first week on the national stage. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs documents the governor’s gaffes, faux pas and self-administered gunshots to both cowboy-booted feet.
While many talk about the similarities between George W. Bush and Rick Perry, both Texas Governor’s running for President, there are many differences. There was a feeling of inevitability about Bush that there isn’t about Perry. And it all has to do with the Bush family, their deep connections in GOP politics and the monied elite of our country. Perry has none of that.
Bush was able to play the part of the “guy I’d like to have a beer with”, while allaying the fears of the elites in America and the GOP, because he came from privilege. They felt secure that he wouldn’t sell out his own family, and therefore them, to the wing-nuts on the far right. With Perry they’re not so sure. That’s why Rove attacked him and that’s why this happened today, Former Reagan Official: ‘Rick Perry’s an Idiot’.
Bruce Bartlett, who was a domestic policy adviser to President Reagan and served as the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for economic policy under President George H.W. Bush, had some unflattering comments on the Texas governor and presidential candidate on CNN’s American Morning today: “Rick Perry’s an idiot, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that,” he said, in a discussion about Perry saying Federal Reserve Bank chairman Ben Bernanke would be “treasonous” if he printed more money.
The Bush’s are a “blue blood” family, Yale, US Senate, CIA, etc…which made the GOP and monied elites very comfortable that Dubya wouldn’t throw them under the bus – can you say TARP and bank bailout? – when the shit hit the fan. It’s already obvious they don’t feel that way about Perry.
The most frustrating part of the Great Recession is that history shows us the way out of this mess. The only problem is that those with the power to effect change are ignoring history. Or as Krugman calls it, Awesome Wrongness.
And here we are, with markets now deeply worried not by deficits but by stalling growth, fearing not fiscal profligacy but fiscal austerity, and with interest rates at historic lows.
Instead of turning into Greece, we’ve turned into Japan, except much worse. And policy is replaying 1937.
In the past, you could make excuses on the grounds of ignorance. In the 1930s they didn’t have basic macroeconomics. Even in Japan in the 1990s you could argue that it took a long time to realize that the liquidity trap was a real possibility in the modern world.
But we came into this crisis with a pretty good understanding of what was at stake and pretty good analysis of the policy options — yet policy makers and, I’m sorry to say, many economists just chose to ignore all that and go with their prejudices instead.
And the worst of it is that the people who got this so wrong have not and probably won’t admit to their awesome wrongness; on the contrary, they’ll dig in. And the Lesser Depression will go on and on and on.
Here’s what LBJ knew that McGovern didn’t: There are few or no historical instances in which saying clearly what you are for and what you are against makes Americans less divided. But there is plenty of evidence that attacking the wealthy has not made them more divided. After all, the man who said of his own day’s plutocrats, “I welcome their hatred,” also assembled the most enduring political coalition in U.S. history.
The Republicans will call it class warfare. Let them. Done right, economic populism cools the political climate. Just knowing that the people in power are willing to lie down on the tracks for them can make the middle much less frantic. Which makes America a better place. And which, incidentally, makes Democrats win.
Which seems pretty logical. Because if we were to think about it, what would be the point of voting for a Democrat if they didn’t defend the social safety net? After all what’s the difference between a Democrat who doesnt’ defend the social safety net and a Republican? Nothing!! And voters know that.
Our country is a very unequal, unfair, and unjust economically and if left this way will become, if it hasn’t already, that way politically too. A political and economic system like the one we have now is not what Americans want or believe they currently have, “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor”.
Notice that it takes a Sweden (forced wealth redistribution) to produce the middle pie chart. In nature, money rains naturally into the pockets of the already rich and powerful. After all, what’s the point of power if you can’t use it to win every game you play?
Note also, by the way, that it takes media collusion to keep people this confused. Only the low-income workers knew the state of things in their own country.
Amazingly good use of graphics and animation. A must-watch, in my opinion.
Here’s the video:
There’s a way out of this economic mess, the only question left is do we have to descend into “Hoovervilles” again before we figure out that history is our guide? Let’s hope not, but if history repeats itself then it’s entirely likely. Here is a good place to start organizing, www.rebuildthedream.com.
Perry likes to talk off the cuff. That works fine in Texas. We’re used to his rhetorical excesses and he can be fairly certain that his assertions are not going to be challenged. But when he goes to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate and impugns the integrity of scientists concerning global warming, it’s going to be noticed.
If Perry had made his remarks on climate change in, say, Amarillo, it is likely nobody would have paid much attention to them, nor is it likely that a local reporter would have insisted on substantiation. Perry has had it easy for ten years. Now he may be paying a price for his success. He didn’t have to be on top of his game to win in Texas. He could make unsubstantiated statements without fear of being called out for them — and in any case, newspaper readership in Texas is not robust and local TV doesn’t do much political coverage. [Emphasis added]
That’s nice. Burka’s basically telling us that the Texas media has been covering up Perry’s miscues and misstatements for at least a decade and that’s why Perry is where he is today. Hopefully the Texas media will start doing its job soon and spare Texas from politicians like Perry in the future. Of maybe we can get that mother and her son down here to do it for them.
New DNA results, combined with evidence that was improperly withheld by Williamson County prosecutors for more than two decades, indicates that an Austin-area man has spent 24 years in jail for a murder he did not commit, a court filing alleged Wednesday.
Michael Morton, now 57, was convicted in the brutal beating death of his wife, Christine Morton, and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.
But a recent court-ordered DNA test, conducted on a blood-stained bandanna over the objections of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, points instead to an unnamed California felon as the killer, according to court briefs filed by the Innocence Project of New York.
The court filing urged a Williamson County district judge to remove Bradley from the case, saying he cannot be trusted to oversee a reinvestigation of the killing because he has shown “unprofessional” animosity toward Michael Morton and his lawyers.
What’s more, the motion alleges, Bradley worked to keep a key piece of evidence hidden from Morton’s lawyers — a transcript of a police interview that shows the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed his mother’s murder and said the attacker was not his father.
The transcript should have been provided to Morton’s defense lawyers before the trial but was not, according to the Innocence Project motion. Bradley, who was not district attorney during the trial, recently opposed releasing the transcript to the Innocence Project under the state’s open records laws, the motion said.
“Justice demands a rigorous and unbiased investigation into the true circumstances of Christine Morton’s death, and an explanation as to how her grieving husband was wrongfully charged and convicted of the crime,” the motion said. [Emphasis added]
First, for Mr. Bradley to admit the obvious – that the new DNA evidence is powerful proof of Michael Morton’s innocence – he will have to acknowledge more than just an embarrassing misjudgment that cost Michael Morton more than five years behind bars, more than just the use of inappropriately bitter rhetoric, and more than just a substantial expenditure of taxpayer dollars to block the testing. He will also have to acknowledge that he knowingly suppressed other evidence of Mr. Morton’s innocence that had been in the State’s files for over twenty years. These critical documents in the State’s investigative file were finally obtained through a public records act request to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office (“WCSO”) that Mr. Bradley personally opposed. They immeasurably strengthen the claim that Mr. Morton first presented to this Court in 2005 – that Christine was killed by a third-party intruder, and that he should be given an opportunity to prove it through DNA testing – a theory that Mr. Bradley derided as unworthy of serious consideration during the entirety of the Chapter 64 proceedings.
The materials that Mr. Bradley failed to bring to this Court’s attention include, among other leads, a chilling taped police interview by the WCSO’s chief investigator of the victim’s own mother, just one week after Christine’s funeral. The transcript of the interview reveals that (1) the victim’s mother reported that her grandson, Eric, had personally witnessed the murder, (2) Eric not only gave a detailed (and factually corroborated) account of the crime, but was certain that a man who was not “Daddy” actually murdered Christine, and (3) the victim’s mother urged the WCSO’s investigator to abandon the theory that the crime was “domestic” in nature and to instead – in her words – go out and “look for the monster” who committed the crime; and (4) the investigator resisted, suggesting instead (and without any supporting evidence) that Michael might have committed the murder while wearing a scuba diving suit that made him unrecognizable to his only son. Having failed to disclose this extraordinary document (as well as, it appears, others with leads to the real killer that were not pursued by the State and/or disclosed to trial counsel) during the entirety of this Court’s Chapter 64 proceedings, and having unsuccessfully tried to block Defendant from obtaining them through the Public Information Act while the claims were on appeal, Mr. Bradley surely cannot be trusted to impartially investigate the case now. Nor would any investigation headed by his office have the appearance of fairness that the law requires.
Bradley is unrepentant.
The motion, signed by Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and Houston lawyer John Wesley Raley, asks the court to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the case in light of the new evidence.
“Mr. Bradley surely cannot be trusted to impartially investigate the case now. Nor would any investigation headed by his office have the appearance of fairness that the law requires,” the motion said.
Bradley said he could not comment on the specifics of the Morton case because it is the subject of a pending litigation.
But Bradley took strong exception to the Innocence Project’s contention that he could not properly investigate the new evidence and criticized what he called personal attacks disguised as court documents.
“It seems to me that there’s a pretty big attempt here to retaliate or make personal attacks rather than litigate in the courtroom,” Bradley said. “If the investigation shows that he is in fact innocent, then that will be the result.”
Bradley said the new information will be followed up and investigated.
“I don’t think, on its face, that a DNA result that shows that a piece of evidence away from crime scene immediately proves innocence. It does raise some good issues that are worthy of investigation, and we will do that,” he said.
Bradley is taking this personal, but this isn’t about him. It’s about a man, and his family, who has been in prison for 24 years for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s a tragic story and should be rectified ASAP!
There is a perception that the only party that President Obama will stand up to is his own. And that he lets the other party walk all over him. That’s tough to refute but the President likely doesn’t see it that way. Obama’s risk aversion and need for compromise must be seen in the context of means and ends. His end is reelection, that is what is driving the means, and how he is treating his party and the opposition party.
And after reading and listening to it all the point that stands out over and over is that Obama’s main tactic is to look as if he’s above the fray while trying to get Republicans to agree with him, a so-called bipartisan compromise, on every issue. Therefore on most of his major accomplishments he is pulled to the right, at the expense of progressive and Democratic principles, and away from the base of his party. Perception becomes reality and he is seen as selling out his base to placate an uncompromising opposition. He’s never called the GOP’s bluff and that just adds to the frustration.
As the economy worsens, President Obama and his senior aides are considering whether to adopt a more combative approach on economic issues, seeking to highlight substantive differences with Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail rather than continuing to pursue elusive compromises, advisers to the president say.
Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.
But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers, according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
Even if the ideas cannot pass Congress, they say, the president would gain a campaign issue by pushing for them. [Emphasis added]
That is a microcosm of the problem the President’s critics on the left have with him. If the administration is seriously having an internal debate about whether to be more combative with, and highlight differences from, the GOP then they’re really far behind on strategy. But again he’s worried more about how to placate the GOP than his own party.
I think there are a few problems with this strategy. First, it’s going to make it harder to get re-elected if you don’t start focusing on the economy. Second, I’m not sure it’s a wise idea to tell people publicly, which they just did via the NYT, that you’re not going to try to help the economy because it’s too hard.
Now, the President probably sees this differently. He thinks that it’s impossible to do anything controversial, so it’s better to propose smaller thins that everyone can agree on:
So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach — better to do something than nothing — that has defined this administration. Mr. Obama and his aides are skeptical that voters will reward bold proposals if those ideas do not pass Congress. It is their judgment that moderate voters want tangible results rather than speeches.
“If you’re talking about a stunt, I don’t think a stunt is what the American people are looking for,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters on Wednesday. “They’re looking for leadership, and they’re looking for a focus on economic growth and job creation.”
I would agree with Romer:
“Playing it safe is not going to cut it,” said Ms. Romer, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. “Not proposing anything bold and not trying to do something to definitively deal with our problems would mean that we’re going to have another year and a half like the last year and a half — and then it’s awfully hard to get re-elected.”
What we’re seeing here is the President’s risk aversion having real world implications. He does not want to fight. So he’s only willing to settle for easy things. But the easy things don’t have as great an impact on the economy, and more generally our lives.
Just because something is hard to achieve doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve. It’s difficult to see the President’s strategy as some kind of “slow and steady wins the race” approach. It feels increasingly, instead, like he has a psychological aversion to conflict and avoids it all costs. That means that his decision making isn’t entirely rational.
More on the fear of conflict:
But there is little support for such an approach inside the administration. A series of departures has left few economists among Mr. Obama’s senior advisers. Several of his political advisers are skeptical about the merits of stimulus spending, and they are certain about the politics: voters do not like it.
Putting aside for a moment that the President’s politics experts seem to now be making economic policy, how about trying to change the voters’ minds with a comprehensive long-term media/PR strategy? Why is that, also, so averse to this administration? Probably because the President sees it too as “fighting.” Anything that you can’t agree on right away, and quietly, is bad. (And in all fairness, this is a bit of a red herring – the public was for the public option to the tune of 70% in the polls. It made zero difference to the President, he wasn’t going to push for it even though he promised it.)
It’s the inability to take the fight to the GOP by setting the agenda and not letting them set the agenda. As Drew Westen said on Charlie Rose, “Call Votes”. In essence send up a jobs bill and make the GOP vote against it. Every. Single. Day. And then go out and say I’ve sent a jobs bill up that will create X-number of jobs but the GOP keeps voting against it. That’s why you can’t find a job.
We all know the definition of insanity and we need different results. And if the President and his administration believe that if they keep doing small things will help him get reelected….well…maybe. But doing the same thing isnt’ likely to help create many jobs and will actually put his reelection at risk. That’s the conundrum. And without a change in strategy, some risk taking and demonizing of the GOP, we can expect more of the same results.
The continued systematic pursuit of obviously bad public policy is baffling. It’s not like it’s good politics. Does the Obama campaign staff really think they are gonna hold PA or OH with trade concessions to Korea? Do they think they will turn out voters in New Mexico on a deportation platform?
This isn’t hard. Hire people to build things with the free money the world is offering us.