Craig L. Beyler, the nationally recognized forensics expert whose public testimony was scuttled when Gov. Rick Perry shook up the Texas Forensic Science Commission, said today his testimony would have been matter-of-fact and based on his report that is already public.
Also, Capitol sources confirmed today that Perry’s office worked hard to kill funding for the Texas Forensic Science Commission during the last legislative session. “They knew what was coming,” said one source. “They worked the halls hard to defund the agency.” That news could be devasting to Perry’s public argument that his dismissal of his three appointees was “business as usual.”
Beyler would not comment about Perry’s politicization of the the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, whom experts believe was innocent in the deaths of his three daughters. Beyler’s report, already filed with the commission, is extremely critical of the Willingham investigation.
The investigators [in Willingham's case] had poor understandings of fire science and failed to acknowledge or apply the contemporaneous understanding of the limitations of fire indicators. Their methodologies did not comport with the scientific method or the process of elimination.
“I haven’t made any statements because the commission asked me not to say anything,” Beyler said in an interview with DogCanyon. Beyler had been scheduled to testify before the commission last Friday, but the hearing was canceled after Perry, at the last minute, replaced three of his four appointees to the nine-member forensics agency. The agency hired Beyler, so it’s understandable that he would follow agency instructions.
Asked what he would have said at the agency hearing had it not been cancelled, Beyler said, “Maybe the commissioners wanted to probe more deeply into things [in the report] that they did not understand.”
Beyler may get a chance to answer such questions publicly when Sen. John Whitmire holds a hearing on the matter before the Senate Criminal Justice Commission meeting he chairs. Whitmire has not finalized plans for the committee meeting. The only witness Whitmire confirmed was John Bradley, the Williamson County prosecutor who now heads the commission. Bradley told the Dallas Morning News’ Christy Hoppe that he thought the agency’s investigation would continue, but he didn’t know when.
Given Beyler’s belief that his testimony only involved an already public report, it remains a mystery why Perry decided to obstruct the commission hearing. Since he is likely the first governor in modern history to have presided over the execution of an innocent man (Perry denied Willingham a stay of execution), it may have been that his campaign considered any public airing of the issues to be potentially dangerous.
We'll continue to bring you more information as this develops...