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San Antonio Paper Says John Bradley Unfit to Serve As Chair of Forensic Science Commission

Perrys brazen abuse of power

Feb. 7, 2010

San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board

When the going was about to get tough for Gov. Rick Perry at the Texas Forensic Science Commission last fall, Perry sacked three commission members, including its chairman. The commission — created by the Legislature in 2005 to set standards for forensic analysis and investigate allegations of negligence or misconduct — was at long last about to consider the case of Todd Willingham.

Willingham was put to death in 2004 after being convicted of murdering his three daughters by arson. Substantial doubt exists about the forensic evidence used to obtain that conviction. Perry denied Willingham’s reprieve request and insists the state properly executed “a monster.”

Just as the commission was set to hear expert testimony about the Willingham case, Perry’s new appointee — Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley — abruptly canceled the hearing. The move benefited Perry politically by delaying an official examination that could prove to be detrimental to his re-election effort.

The Forensic Science Commission met again last month. But the Willingham case wasn’t on the agenda. Instead, Bradley mired the commission in procedural issues and tried to establish policies that give him extraordinary powers not defined by the Legislature, including the power to appoint the members and chairman of a committee to screen complaints the commission receives.

Bradley also confirmed critics’ worst expectations about his commitment to transparency. The Dallas Morning News reported he prevented a film crew that is producing a documentary about the death penalty in Texas to cover the meeting, a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. Hours later, after the intervention of Attorney General Greg Abbott, Bradley allowed the film crew to enter.

The commission is supposed to return to case reviews — including, presumably, the Willingham case — at its meeting on April 23. Conveniently for Perry, that’s after the March 2 primary.

The commission needs to discharge its duties and determine if faulty science led to the execution of an innocent man. Perry’s brazen manipulation of the commission represents an abuse of the gubernatorial power of appointment. Bradley’s political hatchet work on the governor’s behalf and lack of respect for open government render him unfit to serve as its chairman.

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