From the Star Telegram:
Although justice can move very slowly, it eventually tends to discover the truth and mete out the appropriate punishment or reward.
Sometimes, it even catches up with those charged with administering it, like the haughty district attorney of Williamson County near Austin.
John Bradley, first appointed Williamson County DA by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001 and subsequently elected to the position, was soundly defeated in his bid for re-election in the May 29 Republican primary. The victor in that race was County Attorney Jana Duty, who used the wrongful conviction of an innocent man to persuade voters that Bradley was unworthy of the office.
Bradley was not district attorney when Michael Morton was convicted in the 1986 murder of his wife and sentenced to life in prison without parole. But Bradley was there when Morton and his attorneys began asking for DNA testing that could prove his innocence. For six years, those requests were denied, with Bradley saying that evidence was irrelevant.
Last December, Morton was officially exonerated after a judge ordered the testing that linked the murder to another man, Mark Norwood, who was charged with the crime in February.
Morton was freed after serving 25 years in prison.
But his case isn’t completely over. Morton’s lawyers have alleged that the prosecutor in the case, Ken Anderson — now a state district judge — had failed to turn over several pieces of evidence that would have been beneficial to Morton’s defense.
Earlier this year, a Bexar County judge recommended a court of inquiry after finding probable cause that Anderson had broken the law. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson selected state District Judge Louis Sturns of Tarrant County to lead the court of inquiry investigation into whether prosecutorial misconduct occurred.
Bradley isn’t the target of the misconduct allegation, but his role in resisting Morton’s pleas for testing worked against him, just as his hard-line stance in a separate murder case may have.
When the Texas Forensic Science Commission was investigating the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of setting a fire that killed his three young daughters, some arson investigation specialists said bad science had been used to conclude that the blaze was deliberately set. If it was not arson, then it was not murder. Willingham’s advocates argue that he was wrongly convicted, but he was executed in 2004.
Shortly before a key commission hearing on the case, the governor replaced four members; their terms had expired, but the timing looked suspicious. Perry appointed Bradley commission chairman, and the new head quickly became an obstructionist to the Willingham investigation.
Bradley called Willingham a “guilty monster,” backing up Perry’s assertion that he was guilty because a jury had said so. And it appeared that Bradley did not want the investigation to proceed on any level that might show Texas had executed an innocent man.
He favored adoption of a report that said fire investigators in the case had done no wrong. But other commission members resisted that conclusion. The panel’s work on the Willingham case was limited by a convoluted 2011 ruling from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said the commission could not investigate cases that occurred before the Legislature established it in 2005. Abbott said the members could consider whether there was professional misconduct in the investigation, but they could not examine specific evidence used to prosecute Willingham.
Not long before that, the Republican-controlled state Senate had refused to vote on Bradley’s reappointment as chairman. He was replaced by Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani.
The Innocence Project was the major advocate in both the Morton and Willingham cases.
With the organization’s help, more than 40 convicted individuals in Texas have been exonerated through DNA testing in the past few years, which makes Bradley’s obstinate behavior even more reprehensible.
Perhaps now he’s learned a valuable lesson, one I hope is taught to a few more district attorneys around the state.