John Bradley is a tool....of Rick Perry.

Hi folks,

Welcome to an inaugural blog for the new website of the CEDP.  I have been wanting to use this feature for awhile, and an experience I had yesterday seems like a fitting way to start.

Folks may have heard of the case of Cameron Todd Willingham - it's been a high profile case in Texas for some time.  Todd was executed in 2004 under current governor Rick Perry, convicted and sentenced to the death for setting an arson fire that killed his 3 children.

Yet reports that came out even before the execution cast doubt on whether any arson was committed.  The Texas Forensics Science Commission (created among other things to investigate charges of misconduct and negligence by forensic investigators) hired a renowned fire science expert, Craig Beyler, to review the evidence in the case and prepare a report.

The report Beyler produced charged that the investigators in the Willingham case had done shoddy work, not even up to the generally accepted standards of the time, and that based on his review of the case files, he could not conclude that an arson had occured.

The commission was all set to question to Beyler about his report back in September 2009, when Gov. Perry swooped in and replaced several members of the commission, including making John Bradley, a conservative DA, the new head of the commisssion.

For the last 15 months Bradley has done everything in his power to squash the investigation.  And he managed to keep it from moving forward before Perry's reelection last November.  But a revolt from the scientists on the board finally led to the long awaited meeting held yesterday, where Beyler finally appeared before the commission to present his report and answer questions from the members.

I attended the hearing with a handful of anti death penalty activists.  We set up outside the building an hour before the meeting was to start, with our signs and banners and talked to as much media as we could before the hearing started.

I talked to a reporter from the Dallas Morning News and she wanted to know what our main message was.  I told her that our biggest concern was that innocent people have been executed and that we want to see the death penalty abolished.  However, I had to express my feelings about John Bradley and Rick Perry as well.  

Early in the controversy around this case Perry had characterized Todd as a "monster", proclaiming that he had no doubt that Todd was guilty.  A few months ago, Bradley parroted those sentiments publicly.  A court of inquiry had been convened to explore whether Todd merited a posthumous exoneration and Bradley got his shorts all in a twist about it. 

He complained to the press that abolitionists have an "agenda" and are simply searching for an innocent person that was executed in order to indict the whole system.  He repeated Perry's words that Todd was a monster and definitely guilty.

This pissed off lots of folks, including members of the commission.  Bradley is the head of a commission that is tasked to look into the scientific evidence in a case and make a determination based on the merits of the evidence presented.  His comments were entirely inappropriate in this context.

Also, news flash Bradley, but abolitionists clearly have an agenda - to end the death penalty.  And we don't need to search for innocence cases, they are all around us!  In Texas alone we have several cases where we are certain people were innocent and executed.  The people with the agenda here are Rick Perry and Bradley who are trying desperately to cover up a gross miscarriage of justice.

At yesterday's meeting, Bradley showed up wearing a casual red sweater, while the rest of his colleagues wore suits.  During the whole meeting he rocked back in his chair, twiddling his fingers and in general exuding an air of disdain for the proceedings.

Bradley main focus was trying to prove through his questions that the original fire investigators had not violated any standards of the time and that they were justified in determining arson because of a single witness statement (and I'm still not certain what statement he is referring to).

But Beyler and another fire science expert John Dehaan, stood by their conclusions that the origin of the fire remained undetermined and that the investigators work was sloppy and even negligent based on the generally taught and accepted practices of the time.

I didn't make it back to the afternoon part of the hearing, where the Houston and the State Fire Marshall were called, although it was clear before the meeting that they were there playing for the Perry/Bradley team.

Bradley made little friends during the morning, attacking the experts, leveling threats at the media (who made up 70% of the room) and even challenging the professional conduct of a fellow commission member.  Many times during the morning there was outright laughter at Bradley's clumsy and obvious maneuverings.  

It was infuriating sitting so near to the guy.  Many words come to mind to describe him, some I won't print here, although douchebag does pretty well.  Too bad this guy is in a position to try to deny justice to Todd Willingham and any other cases that present a political danger to his puppet master Rick Perry.  When you think about that, then the only conclusion is that Perry and Bradley are the monsters in this story.

However,it's exciting that the commission finally heard these experts present their reports, and my impression is that the commission was very receptive to Beyler and Dehaans' conclusions.  Now we wait to see if they will stand up to Bradley and do the right thing!

By Lily Mae Hughes, Campaign to End the Death Penalty