John Bradley Violated Texas Open Meetings Act at Forensic Science Commission Meeting

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Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle has a column today on how Rick Perry's handpicked puppet/chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission violated the Texas Open Meetings Act (PDF) at Friday's meeting, which was held in Harlingen. The Dallas Morning News' Trailblazer blog first reported on Bradley's violation of the TOMA. Bradley should be removed as chair of the Commission. He has proven by his handling of the first meeting that his main goal was to cover-up and impede the investigation into whether Texas relied on faulty arson evidence to execute a person who did not kill anyone.

One of the Commission members should offer a motion at the next meeting of the Commission to recommend that Rick Perry replaces Bradley as chair. Bradley is an elected district attorney. He knows about the TOMA. He obviously violated the act on purpose as part of his cover-up of the Willingham investigation. The commission members should also read up on Robert's Rules of Order to make sure they know how to exercise their own authority to control Bradley.

From Rick Casey:

Friday started badly for John Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney selected last fall by Gov. Rick Perry to ride herd over the troublesome scientists on the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

His first official act of the morning was to violate the state's open meetings law.

Then his day got worse.

This was the first meeting of the commission under Bradley, who was appointed last September. His first official act was to cancel a meeting three days later at which the commission was scheduled to receive a report from a nationally renowned arson expert hired by the commission in its first high-profile case.

The meeting had drawn national attention because the expert found that the arson investigation that helped lead to the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his children was badly flawed. It was especially controversial because Perry had rejected a request to delay Willingham's execution based on similar expert analysis.

Bradley unilaterally wrote the agenda for Friday's meeting to focus on new policies and procedures, omitting the Willingham report. He also unilaterally chose Harlingen (which is as close to Mexico City as to Fort Worth, where three of the nine uncompensated and busy commission members live), making wrong my snide prediction that he would hold the meeting in Presidio to discourage reporters.

The session took place in a modest meeting room at a Marriott Courtyard Hotel. A few area reporters were seated around the walls, as well as a handful of protesters carrying signs. A camera crew from the national Innocence Project streamed the meeting live on the group's Web site.

But Bradley evicted an Austin-based documentary crew before the meeting started. One of its members called the attorney general's office in Austin, which sent a message to Barbara Dean, the assistant district attorney who has attended all of the commission's meetings, providing legal guidance since its inception.

Film crew admitted

An hour and a half into the meeting, Dean, seated behind Bradley, tapped him on the shoulder and quietly spoke into his ear. He announced a 10-minute break, and when the meeting resumed the film crew was in the room.

When I asked Bradley about the matter, he curtly told me to talk to the film crew. I said I had and he replied with annoyance: “Then you know.”

His defensiveness was understandable. Enforcement of the Open Meetings Act is the responsibility of local district attorneys such as himself.

Grits for Breakfast liveblogged the meeting, which you can read here.

Grits also has a post listing reasons why the commission members should be upset by Bradley's handling of the meeting.

Usurping power from commissioners: Bradley refused to put “action items” on the agenda that were designated in the minutes from the last meeting.

Hijacking the meeting agenda: The chairman arrived in Harlingen with a detailed set of “rules” that were never authorized by the commission and insisted they focus on them exclusively.

Concealing key activities from commissioners: Most FSC members were never told the chair was drafting rules nor did they authorize him to do so. They were first informed of the rules' existence and given a draft the day before the meeting.

Wasting commissioners' time: After spending all day on “rules,” the chairman revealed at the end of the meeting that the commission had no rulemaking authority, announcing that these were only voluntary “guidelines” representing an informal agreement that is “not even enforceable on ourselves.”

Ignoring “process”: Though the Commission historically operated under Robert's Rules, Bradley ran the meeting on a “consensus” basis, which removed limits on the chair, obfuscated members' right to control the process, and allowed Bradley to railroad through his agenda.

Dissembling: When a commissioner told the chairman her vote hinged on whether old cases already in the pipeline – including ones where the Commission had already paid outside consultants (there are only two) – would be subjected to the new committee process, Bradley said no, they would not.

After the vote, when the meeting had nearly ended, Bradley insisted that Willingham's case must go through “part of” the new committee process. If he'd been honest about that during the debate, IMO a majority of commissioners present wouldn't have supported his rules.

Off the Kuff says Bradley's performance on Friday is a good reason for Senator John Whitmire “to have another hearing about the Commission and what Bradley is doing to it”.

The next meeting of the Forensic Science Commission is set for April 23, which is not only after the March 2 primary, but after the April 13 date for a runoff, which would be held if no one wins a majority in the Republican primary.

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  1. Rules of engagement…
    One does not engage John Bradley. One listens, says thank you, and moves on. Been there, done that with John.  

  2. One would think ….

    That in a community that claims to be so “Christian” like Texas, that there would be a big uproar about the fact that we appear to have executed an innocent man.  The silence is highly puzzling.

    Unfortunately, the governor has done a good job of showing that Willingham was not someone you would not want to marry your daughter or have as a neighbor.  In short, he was poor, uneducated, and dysfunctional.  Therefore, we are to conclude that he must have also been a murderer (or at least guilty of something…).

    Of course for those who actually care about loving our neighbor (even the unlovely ones), we know that the Judeo-Christian ethic requires justice for all, not just the rich, good looking, or well-groomed.

    Here are a few notes to share with our friends who want to ignore this injustice:

    Exodus 23:2

    “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd,

    Exodus 23:6

    “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.

    Leviticus 19:15

    ” 'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

    Deuteronomy 16:18 – 20

    … [a judge] should judge fairly.  Do not pervert justice or show partiality. … Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.

    Deuteronomy 24:17

    Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice,

    Wow, I wonder what part of that is hard to understand?

    • The reality of the commission…
      The commission cannot declare Willingham innocent. Only the courts can do that. It can only determine whether the forensic science involved was sufficient and sufficient in the sense of being used as evidence. Apparently none of it is judging from what happened in the end with the Medina case, the antics of Chuck Rosenthal aside, in which the district attorney's office summed up the problem. Ruling out arson doesn't prove it was accidental. Ruling out accidental cause doesn't prove it was arson.  So much for forensic science.

      As for Willingham, there was other evidence, and testimony of eyewitnesses who were present that day, that the jury looked at.  The jury so far has no come out and said “oh, if we had known this” and until they do, don't look for the courts to exonerate Willingham.  Personally I think he was guilty and I hope he rots in hell. For the same reason the jury probably did. His children are being cremated before his and everyone else's eyes and he's concerned about his car?

      As for Perry, well, it stinks. But, well, he's the governor. And it's election year. And, well, anything goes.

      • Justice reqires Evidence, not belief

        Point 1. — Perry is playing politics with the past, present and future of the Texas Justice Sysytem;

        Point 2 — If there is no admissible evidence of arson, then there is no proof beyond reasonable doubt that Willingham did it.

        Point 3.  The so-called evidence of arson was junk science and similar evidence should never ever be allowed to be entered into a Texas court.

        Point 4 — it was cold day, they had a space heater, space heaters start fires, his older daughter had knocked down the space heater in the past.

        Point 5 – he was poor, dysfunctional, negligent father and abusive husband who he had a court appointed attorney who never questioned the junk science (none of these make him a murderer).

        Point 6 — Justice requires we not allow any conviction, especially one with reasonable doubt, to be based on junk science.

        Whether we like it or not, the justice system is designed so that a person can not be found guilty without credible evidence of his guilt.

        The fact is we will not know for sure if he is innocent or not until we get to the next life.  

        Even so, for those of us who follow the Judeo-Christian ethic (and most GOP'ers claim to), the Judeo-Christian ethic as demonstrated by the following scripture has always been certain that a person can not be convicted on improper evidence:

        Deuteronomy 17:6 – On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

        Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

        In other words, excluding bad evidence is our highest moral duty, not some “liberal, soft on crime” conspiracy.

        A large part of our Western and Judeo-Christian heritages is the establishment of justice for all.

        Justice is not a minor matter, if we allow bad science to be the basis for convictions, we are perverting justice.  

        I do not ever want my state or nation to be a part of the death of an innocent person (or the execution of a person, innocent or not, based on bad evidence).

  3. Making a sham of the commission
    Perry's appointment is an obvious door stop for Perry.  He's making a sham of the whole concept of this commission.  It's so obvious that Bradley's first order of business is to protect Perry at all costs until after the primary.  

    The Statesman's Editorial yesterday

    Forensic panel slow to embark on mission

    (snip)

    As the board moved forward on procedural matters, commission member Garry Adams noted there were “weighty” matters pending for review. Bradley acknowledged that, but said “our actions today are limited to what's on the agenda.”

    The Willingham case was not. It will be, Bradley said, at the commission's next meeting, which is scheduled for April 23 in Fort Worth.

    Allow us to save you a trip to the calendar. This year, April 23 comes after March 2 (primary day).

    It also comes after April 13, the date a runoff would be needed if neither Perry nor either of his two opponents get more than half the votes on March 2.

    Mission accomplished Bradley! Perry must be so proud of you.

     

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