11/9/2009 12:06 PM
Mary Alice Robbins has a Nov. 5 piece that shows some of what could be expected at the much-anticipated Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing tomorrow that will feature Texas Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley (also Williamson County District Attorney). Many are wondering what Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D-Houston) will ask Bradley and how he will ask it.
Controversy swirled when Gov. Rick Perry removed Forensic Commission Chairman Samuel Bassett and replaced him with Bradely -- two days before the commission was to hear a report from arson expert Craig Beyler concluding that evidence used to confirm arson in the 1991 case of Cameron Todd Willingham was faulty. His report argues that arson could not be confirmed in the case, thought it does not conclusively rule out arson.
At least based on what Whitmire told Robbins, he does not appear poised for a knockdown fight with Bradley before the cackle of media outlets that will no doubt fill Capitol Extension E1.016 tomorrow morning. Robbins reports:
Whitmire ... says he will ask Bradley at the Nov. 10 hearing for a status report on the commission and for Bradley’s assessment of the scope and parameters of the commission’s authority.
But Whitmire says he will also ask Bradley, “Oh, by the way, are you going to hear from Beyler?”
Whitmire says he is not troubled by Perry’s replacement of the commission members.
“My position is: He is the governor,” Whitmire says. “He makes appointments.”
But Whitmire says the timing of Perry’s decision to replace these commission members was unfortunate.
“If he had made the decision a month earlier, this situation wouldn’t be the way it is,” Whitmire says.
Whitmire says the situation does not prevent a new set of members from doing their work, which he says is “critical.” He says the important thing is to learn from the forensics and move forward.
Whitmire authored a 2005 bill creating the forensic commission, whose basic parameters are listed on its website.
Bradley has said that he intends for the commission to move forward with the Willingham investigation. "I think it's in the best interest of the public to have the report come out," he told Robbins.