Back in 2007, the Grits for Breakfast blog noted that Williamson County, Texas, District Attorney John Bradley gave some curious advice on a discussion board to another prosecutor. The other prosecutor was asking about how to construct a plea agreement in a way that would forfeit any future right to DNA testing. Bradley responded, “Innocence, though, has proven to trump most anything.” How unfortunate! He then added:
A better approach might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest. Harris County regularly seeks such agreements.
Destroying evidence is an odd way to seek justice, especially given how many “slam dunk” cases and convictions based on false confessions have later been overturned after DNA testing.
I bring this up for a couple reasons. First, because Bradley is the DA involved in the pending DNA exoneration case I linked to this morning. And he’s accused of some pretty serious misconduct. From the article:
New DNA results, combined with evidence that was improperly withheld by Williamson County prosecutors for more than two decades, indicates that an Austin-area man has spent 24 years in jail for a murder he did not commit, a court filing alleged Wednesday.
Michael Morton, now 57, was convicted in the brutal beating death of his wife, Christine Morton, and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.
But a recent court-ordered DNA test, conducted on a blood-stained bandanna over the objections of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, points instead to an unnamed California felon as the killer, according to court briefs filed by the Innocence Project of New York.
The court filing urged a Williamson County district judge to remove Bradley from the case, saying he cannot be trusted to oversee a reinvestigation of the killing because he has shown “unprofessional” animosity toward Michael Morton and his lawyers.
What’s more, the motion alleges, Bradley worked to keep a key piece of evidence hidden from Morton’s lawyers — a transcript of a police interview that shows the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed his mother’s murder and said the attacker was not his father.
The second reason I bring this up takes us back to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. If you’ll remember, just before the Texas Forensic Science Commission was set to open up an investigation into the Cameron Todd Willingham case, Perry abruptly replaced three of the commissioners with nominees who were more friendly to prosecutors, all of whom opposed reopening the case.
One of the replacements Perry nominated was . . . you guessed it . . . Williamson County, Texas, District Attorney John Bradley.
(Thanks to reader Kevin Spencer and commenter “thefncrow” for the leads.)