AAS has the story, Perry names DA Bradley to lead Forensic Science Commission.
Gov. Rick Perry today replaced the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which is conducting a politically sensitive investigation into whether the state executed a man based on a fatally flawed arson investigation.
The commission’s new chairman is Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, a tough-on-crime politically connected conservative.
Bradley replaces Austin defense lawyer Sam Bassett as head of the commission, created by Legislature in 2005 to investigate allegations of scientific negligence or misconduct in the criminal justice system.
Bassett’s term expired Sept. 1, and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had urged Perry to reappoint him as the commission’s seat reserved for a defense attorney.
Austin lawyer Keith Hampton, vice president of the defense lawyers association, was dismayed at the choice of Bradley.
“This looks an awful lot like a governor who’s interfering with a science commission because the science demonstrated that we’ve executed an innocent person,” Hampton said. “To pick one of the most partisan people in the state and just anointing him as presiding officer is rather breathtaking.”
Bradley’s first act as chairman was to cancel Friday’s commission meeting in Dallas, where fire scientist Craig Beyler was to discuss his recently released report on the 1991 fire that killed three children of Cameron Todd Willingham.
Willingham was executed in 2004 based on bad science, unproven theories and personal bias by arson investigators, Beyler concluded. The evidence did not support a finding that the fire was intentionally set, he said.
the short story is that Willingham was convicted of arson and killing his own children, and was then put to death by the state of Texas. He professed his innocence from the beginning and it turns out he was right. The fire wasn’t arson after all, and an innocent man was likely put to death. The New Yorker wrote about the Willingham case earlier in the year, Trial by Fire – Did Texas execute an innocent man? Grits has more on it here, How does governor think Willingham killed his kids if not by arson? Looks like a political move , CYA, or both by the governor, instead of doing what’s right.