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The Brief: April 23, 2010

If good things come to those who wait, the Texas Forensic Science Commission must be expecting a spectacular meeting today.

John Bradley, left, is the new chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Cameron Todd Willingham, right, was executed for setting a house fire that killed his three daughters.


If good things come to those who wait, the Texas Forensic Science Commission must be expecting a spectacular meeting today.

They are finally expected to finally take up the matter of the Cameron Todd Willingham case at their hearing in Irving.

Willingham, a Corsicana man who was executed for the arson deaths of his three daughters, has drawn national attention ever since his case was profiled in the New Yorker in September 2009 in an article casting doubt on the science used to convict him.

The matter was expected to be heard by the commission in October, but, just days before the hearing, Gov. Rick Perry replaced then-chairman Sam Bassett with now-chairman John Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney. When Bradley took over, he immediately delayed consideration of the case, saying he needed more time to study the board’s procedures. 

Bradley has been repeatedly accused of delaying talk of Willingham. The Forensic Science Commission leadership recently took a bit of a knuckle-rapping from lawmakers in the House Public Safety Committee, especially when Bradley failed to show up for the hearing to discuss his own commission.

With Bradley missing, chairman Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, said, “What John Bradley testified in front of the Senate committee was that he could not do anything [on the Willingham case] because the commission needed to be organized. ... And what I’m hearing the commission say now, from two commissioners and one former commissioner, that in your opinion, you were organized at the time,” Merritt said. “You were doing your duty, and then all of a sudden John Bradley says, ‘I can’t answer any questions and we can’t move forward for almost a whole year because we didn’t have our ducks in a row.’” 

But, today, Bradley is fully expected to be there, in the chairman’s seat, with the Willingham case on the docket.


• It may not be “Governor of Texas,” but U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has a new leadership role.  She has been named to the Senate Republicans’ leadership team.

• The Timothy Cole Advisory Panel — named for a recently posthumously pardoned man who died in prison after being wrongfully convicted — is leaning away from the idea of establishing a state innocence commission.  According to Dave Montgomery of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the panel has “concerns that it would create a new bureaucracy and duplicate work already being performed in Texas law schools.”  It will vote on the matter at their next meeting.

John B. Stevens Jr. is tired of waiting.  The Beaumont state judge had been President Barack Obama’s pick be a federal prosecutor in Texas’ Eastern District, but he withdrew from consideration citing delays in the appointment process. 

“Warden, let ‘er rip.” — convicted killer William Josef Berkley’s last words before being executed yesterday


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