By JEFF CARLTON
Associated Press Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry’s surprise appointment of a conservative ally to lead a panel investigating whether Texas executed an innocent man has raised the question of whether politics will trump science on the state’s forensics board.
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley has vowed to “let the facts lead us wherever they do.” But his first move as the ranking member of the Texas Forensic Science Commission was to cancel a meeting set for Friday, citing a need to study the issues confronting the panel.
The board was about to consider a report critical of an arson finding that led Cameron Todd Willingham to be executed for the deaths of his three daughters.
Bradley’s appointment came as Perry removed three members of the board, including its leader, Austin attorney Sam Bassett. Bradley is the first elected official on the panel since its inception in 2005.
Keith Hampton, an Austin defense attorney and vice president of the state’s Criminal Defense Lawyer Association, said the commission is now tainted by considerations that have little to do with science.
“Ideology and politics,” Hampton said. “The two worst possible things we want anywhere close to science.”
Jeff Blackburn, a Lubbock attorney and the chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, echoed that concern. “At least there won’t be any illusions as to whether this will be an impartial body,” he said.
Bradley, a Republican who was appointed to the DA job by Perry in 2001, has won re-election three times in Williamson County, home to many of Austin’s suburbs. Voted this year as the state’s top prosecutor by his peers, he is known as a tough-on-crime DA and passionate advocate for police and prosecutors.
“I think we’re bringing in some people who are very capable,” Perry said. “John Bradley is very well known and a very good public servant through the years.”
By JEFF CARLTON
- The Willingham Files
Science panel suggests review of arson convictions
A Texas commission no longer allowed to investigate a case where death penalty opponents say a man may have been executed based on a faulty arson investigation recommended Friday that all cases involving people locked up on arson convictions be reviewed.
Thompson honored for Willingham work
Lowell Thompson, Navarro County District Attorney, was honored by his peers at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association conference last week in Corpus Christi with the Lone Star Award for his work on the Willingham case.
- Willingham not on science panel agenda DALLAS (AP) — A state science panel looking into a possible wrongful conviction in a Texas death penalty case is meeting for the first time since Gov. Rick Perry removed several members, but the execution case is not on the agenda.
- (12-14-09) Tarrant County medical examiner appointed to forensic commission Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Tarrant County's medical examiner to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a group shaken up this fall when Perry replaced several members.
(12-02-09) Jurors defend verdict that led to Texas execution
David Martin is sickened by the suggestion that Texas executed an innocent man when Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death for setting a fire that killed his three children.
- (11-10-09) Forensic panel chair offers plans The Texas Forensic Science Commission is not going to debate the death penalty or decide the guilt or innocence of individual cases, said John Bradley
- (11-08-09) GUEST COMMENTARY: A work in progress I am John Bradley, the elected District Attorney in Williamson County and the new presiding officer of the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission. I am writing to introduce myself, explain the purpose of the Commission and inform you about the work the Commission now faces.
- (10-27-09) Texas Forensic Science Commission questioned The City of Corsicana is questioning the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s ability to look at the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, since it happened 14 years before the commission was created.
- (10-26-09) Report: Willingham's former wife, 'He confessed' In a story on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's online newspaper today, Stacey Kykendall, the former wife of executed Cameron Todd Willingham, says he confessed to her before his execution.
Death penalty opponents rally at Texas Capitol
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Death penalty opponents, convinced an innocent man was executed in 2004, staged a rally Saturday at the Texas Capitol to call for a moratorium on capital punishment and to highlight the controversial case of Cameron Todd Willingham.
- More The Willingham Files Headlines
- Science panel suggests review of arson convictions