Grits and Casey on Bradley and Willingham

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Cronyism at 9:58 am by wcnews

AS EOW posted last week, Worst fears realized as Bradley misses hearing, this is nothing new. Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is doing what he was appointed to do. From Grits, Forensic commission should ‘reconsider’ rules, pull Willingham case out of stacked committee.

If one believes - as admittedly I do - that the Governor ousted his old appointees last fall and replaced them with Bradley and Co. for the purpose of scuttling the Willingham inquiry until after the election, then these new rules and committee assignments set them up admirably to accomplish the task. Particularly telling was the chairman’s brazen decision to assign himself to the committee assessing the Willingham case. From the Startlegram: “The notion that he would be on this particular committee in light of everything that has gone on in the last year is particularly inappropriate,” said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. “A suspicious mind would be concerned about nefarious activities.”

Burnam’s right about Bradley and the appearance of neutrality. The Williamson County DA has already been sharply, publicly critical of the arson expert commissioned to investigate the lack of scientific rigor in the evidence presented at the Willingham trial. Bradley even tried to prevent the scientist from testifying before a legislative committee that requested his views on the role of expert testimony unrelated to the case.

What’s more, a second member of the three-person committee, Dr. Peerwani, was also appointed last fall after the Governor interceded to change the direction of the commission. So two of the three committee members evaluating the Willingham case were people who, by all appearances, were appointed to the Commission primarily to impede the investigation, not get to the bottom of the matter. Given that, there’s a decent chance the thing never gets voted out of committee - that’s what I’d do if I just wanted to kill it.

That’s why, IMO someone on the commission should bone up on their parliamentary procedure and make a “motion to reconsider” at their next meeting later this month, because they were sold a pig in a poke. The Commission made the decision to create this new committee structure based on false pretenses, believing it wouldn’t apply to pending cases.

And there was this criticism of Bradley and Perry by Rick Casey in the HChron on Tuesday, No fire under commission investigating arson case.

Last fall when Gov. Rick Perry abruptly replaced the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission two days before it was to hear a national arson expert testify that Texas had executed a man for murder by arson based on faulty evidence and profoundly flawed testimony by a fire marshal, I naively wondered whether the commission’s findings on the case would be delayed until after the March primary.

I underestimated the skills of Perry’s hand-picked new chairman, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.

Now I can confidently predict that the matter will not be settled until after the November election, a full 14 months after Bradley took over leadership of the commission.

The matter is of some concern to Perry. Shortly before Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death in 2004 for an arson that killed his three young daughters, Perry had received a request that he delay the execution based on an arson expert’s report that evidence presented at the trial did not show that the fire had been deliberately set.

Craig Beyler, one of the nation’s top arson experts, who after a search was hired by the Forensic Science Commission to investigate the case, would be addressing the commission on his findings — that the fire may well have not been caused by arson at all.

Chairman Bradley’s first act was to cancel the October meeting that was set to hear from Beyler.

He then slowed the process by determining that the commission would meet quarterly, rather than every other month as it had before.

Without consultation with other commissioners, he drew up an agenda for the January meeting that included no discussion of the Willingham case.

The commission just posted its agenda for next week’s meeting, again drawn up by Bradley though this time honoring some suggestions from commissioners. The first item: approval of Bradley’s nominations for a number of committees, including an “investigative panel” for the Willingham case.

For that three-member panel, Bradley called his own number. The other two are Dr. Nizam Peerwani of the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office and Sarah Kerrigan, the Scotland Yard-trained head of the forensic science graduate program at Sam Houston State University. Peerwani is one of Perry’s new appointees. Kerrigan has been critical of Bradley’s leadership.

I hope the members of this commission know that if they aren’t speaking up, and actively working for a better process and against Bradley/Perry’s stalling, then they are complicit in allowing this commission to used for political cover.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.