Perry attempts to gut Forensic Science Commission

This is an outrage.

Gov. Rick Perry today replaced the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which is conducting a politically sensitive investigation into whether the state executed a man based on a fatally flawed arson investigation.

The commission’s new chairman is Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, a tough-on-crime politically connected conservative.

Bradley replaces Austin defense lawyer Sam Bassett as head of the commission, created by Legislature in 2005 to investigate allegations of scientific negligence or misconduct in the criminal justice system.

Bassett’s term expired Sept. 1, and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had urged Perry to reappoint him as the commission’s seat reserved for a defense attorney.

Austin lawyer Keith Hampton, vice president of the defense lawyers association, was dismayed at the choice of Bradley.

“This looks an awful lot like a governor who’s interfering with a science commission because the science demonstrated that we’ve executed an innocent person,” Hampton said. “To pick one of the most partisan people in the state and just anointing him as presiding officer is rather breathtaking.”

Bradley’s first act as chairman was to cancel Friday’s commission meeting in Dallas, where fire scientist Craig Beyler was to discuss his recently released report on the 1991 fire that killed three children of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Emphasis mine. No question in my mind that Perry, who thinks this is all a bunch of hippie tree-hugger crap, wants to bury the Commission’s report, if not forever than at least till after the 2010 elections. If I had any capacity to be shocked by his sociopathy, I’d be shocked. For shame, Governor. A statement from Tom Schieffer is beneath the fold. The Contrarian has more.

UPDATE: Grits has more.


The announcement that the new chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission has canceled Friday’s hearing into the Cameron Todd Willingham case is very disturbing.

A national fire expert hired by the commission has raised serious questions about the guilt of Willingham, who was put to death five years ago after being convicted of killing his three children in an intentionally set house fire. The expert has disputed the initial investigators’ findings that the fire was arson.

The commission was scheduled to have a public hearing on the case on Friday. But the commission got a new chairman this week after Governor Perry declined to extend the terms of the previous chairman, who had scheduled the hearing, and two other commission members. The new chairman has now canceled the hearing.

Opponents and supporters of the death penalty are united in their belief that only the guilty should be executed. If a mistake was made in this case, we need to know it. By the same token, if Mr. Willingham was guilty, we need to know that too.

The commission needs to reschedule the hearing as soon as possible. No one in public life should ever be afraid of the truth. In the final analysis, truth is the only thing that serves justice.

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11 Responses to Perry attempts to gut Forensic Science Commission

  1. Brown Bess says:

    What are the possible avenues for federal involvement at this point? Is there any point to a “wrongful death” suit, though I suspect the state is protected against such.

    Besides calling Perry’s office and registering your protest – completely unsatisfying and ineffective – what can be done by people who want to express their outrage?

  2. Pingback: Reschedule the meeting – Off the Kuff

  3. Grey Fox says:

    Amazing. This is the kind of stuff you would expect in some gritty little dictatorship, not the US of A. Let’s see; if I (Governor Perry) don’t like the possible outcome, I’ll just get rid of the rascals that would see justice done, and fill the panel with my own cronies. Got it. Good plan. Opaque…no one will notice. Justice? Ahhh, come on, don’t be a softy. We just may have killed the wrong guy. No big deal. Welcome to Texas y’all.

  4. Tim says:

    Maybe Texas should secede from the union.
    Too bad Molly Ivins isn’t around to give us her Goodhair Perry commentary about this ordeal.

  5. chuck says:

    I might be willing to dismiss this action if I weren’t completely aware of Texas Republicans full frontal assault on all things dealing with science. Just look at the ideologically motivated committee that selects school books for Texas school children and you will completely understand the concern over this eleventh hour intervention. Attacks on Monday morning quarterbacking are moot. The Innocence Project has proven that this type of quarterbacking is effective in righting wrongs perpetrated by overzealous prosecutors all over this state. The new commission will need time to familiarize itself with Perry’s version of the case before the public forum proceeds. This is Texas political quality control at its best in order for Perry to “save face” when confronted by that really big enemy known as science.

  6. jim says:

    Only in Texas could this kind of bullshit pass for justice.

  7. Reality says:

    One doesn’t have to take a stand on the propriety of the death penalty to agree that Rick Perry is abusing the power of his office and obstructing justice. The truth is, he knows that Texas has been executing innocent people for years. Texas “justice” has always been a joke. They like killing people down there and don’t worry too much about the truth. This is why I will visit for business purposes only.

  8. TANK says:

    The whole country knows this Governor is a fruit loop. And some Texans? Hope this gets the full forced high octine Justice Dept and FBI investigation. We cannot allow Politics to get in the way of the facts of the investigation and potential murder. Texas is and has been the bible belt – rackem and stackem – conveyor belt to the gas chamber state. The only thing bigger than state of Texas is a Texas Governor’s ego.

  9. Pingback: Innocent men should not be executed; guilty governors should be impeached | Idiotprogrammer

  10. Pingback: It’s not too early to reschedule that meeting – Off the Kuff

  11. Robert Emory says:

    Perry had copy of arson report prior to making changes in the commission. Link to arson report included in this article:

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