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.
STATEMENT FROM TOM SCHIEFFER
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.